I he Yellow
An Illustrated Qjianerly
Volume II July 1894
1 kin Mat hews &P John Lane
I. The Gospel of Content .
II. Poor Cousin Louis .
III. The Composer of "Carmen
IV. Thirty Bob a Week
V. A Responsibility
VI. A Song ....
VII. Passed .
VIII. Sat est Scripsisse
IX. Three Stories .
X. In a Gallery
XI. The Yellow Book, ]
XII. Dreams ....
XIII. Madame Rejane
XIV. The Roman Road .
XVI. Thy Heart s Desire .
XVII. Reticence in Literature
XVIII. My Study
XIX. A Letter to the Editor
XX. An Epigram .
XXI. The Coxon Fund
By Frederick Greenwood Page II
Ella D Arcy . . .34
Charles Willeby . . 63
John Davidson . . 99
Henry Harland . .103
Dollie Radford . .116
Charlotte M. Mew . 121
Austin Dobson . .142
V., O., C.S. . . .144
Katharine de Mattos . 177
Philip Gilbert Hamerton,
LL.D. . . -179
Ronald Campbell Macfie 195
Dauphin Meunier . . 197
Kenneth Grahame . .211
Norman Gale . . 227
Netta Syrett . . . 228
Hubert Crackanthorpe . 259
Alfred Hayes . . -275
Max Beerbohm . .281
William Watson . . 289
Henry James . . . 290
The Yellow Book Vol. II. July, 1 894
The Renaissance of Venus
The Comedy-Ballet of
Gardens de Cafe
The Slippers of
VIII. Portrait of Madame
IX. A Landscape .
X. Portrait of Himself;
XI. A Lady .
XII. A Gentleman .
XIII. Portrait of Henry James
XIV. A Girl Resting
XV. The Old Bedford Music
XVI. Portrait of Aubrey
XVII. Ada Lundberg
XVIII. An Idyll
XIX. The OldiMan s Garden
XX. The Quick and. the
Dead . . .
XXI. A Reminiscence of ^
" The Transgressor "/
XXII. A Study ....
XXIII. For the Backs of Playing^
Cards . . /
By Walter Crane . . Page J
A. S. Hartrick 60
Aubrey Beardsley . -85
Alfred Thornton . .117
P. Wilson Steer . .171
John S. Sargent, A.R.A. . 191
Sydney Adamson . . 207
Walter Sickert . . 220
W. Brown Mac Dougal . 256
E. J. Sullivan . . . 270
By Aymer Vallance
The Yellow Book
Volume II July, 1894
The Editor of THE YELLOW BOOK can in no case
hold himself responsible for rejected manuscripts ;
when, however, they are accompanied by stamped
addressed envelopes, every effort will be made to
secure their prompt return.
The Yellow Book
An Illustrated Quarterly
Volume II July, 1894
London : Elkin Mathews s? John Lane
Boston : Copeland s? Day
Agents for the Colonies : Robt. A. Thompson &? Co.
The Renaissance of Venus
By Walter Crane
By kind permission of G. F. Watts, Esq., R.A.
The Gospel of Content
By Frederick Greenwood
How it was that I, being so young a man and not a very tactful
one, was sent on such an errand is more than I should be
able to explain. But many years ago some one came to me with
a request that I should go that evening to a certain street at King s
Cross, where would be found a poor lady in great distress; that I
should take a small sum of money which was given to me for the
purpose in a little packet which disguised all appearance of coin,
present it to her as a " parcel " which I had been desired to deliver,
and ask if there were any particular service that could be done for
her. For my own information I was told that she was a beautiful
Russian whose husband had barely contrived to get her out of the
country, with her child, before his own arrest for some deep
political offence of which she was more than cognisant, and that
now she was living in desperate ignorance of his fate. Moreover,
she was penniless and companionless, though not quite without
friends ; for some there were who knew of her husband and had a
little help for her, though they were almost as poor as herself.
But none of these dare approach her, so fearful was she of the
danger of their doing so, either to themselves or her husband or
12 The Gospel of Content
her child, and so ignorant of the perfect freedom that political
exiles could count upon in England. "Then," said I," what ex
pectation is there that she will admit me, an absolute stranger to
her, who may be employed by the police for anything she knows
to the contrary ? " The answer was : " Of course that has been
thought of. But you have only to send up your name, which, in
the certainty that you would have no objection, has been com
municated to her already. Her own name, in England, is Madame
It was a Saturday evening in November, the air thick with
darkness and a drizzling rain, the streets black and shining where
lamplight fell upon the mud on the paths and the pools in the
roadway, when I found my way to King s Cross on this small
errand of kindness. King s Cross is a most unlovely purlieu at its
best, which must be in the first dawn of a summer day, when the
innocence of morning smiles along its squalid streets, and the
people of the place, who cannot be so wretched as they look, are
shut within their poor and furtive homes. On a foul November
night nothing can be more miserable, more melancholy. One or
two great thoroughfares were crowded with foot-passengers who
bustled here and there about their Saturday marketings, under the
light that flared from the shops and the stalls that lined the road
way. Spreading on every hand from these thoroughfares, with
their noisy trafficking so dreadfully eager and small, was a maze
of streets built to be " respectable " but now run down into the
forlorn poverty which is all for concealment without any rational
hope of success. It was to one of these that I was directed a
narrow silent little street of three-storey houses, with two families
at least in every one of them.
Arrived at No. 17, I was admitted by a child after long delay,
and by her conducted to a room at the top of the house. No
By Frederick Greenwood i 3
voice responded to the knock at the room door, and none to
the announcement of the visitor s name ; but before I entered I
was aware of a sound which, though it was only what may be
heard in the grill-room of any coffee-house at luncheon time, made
me feel very guilty and ashamed. For the last ten minutes I had
been gradually sinking under the fear of intrusion of intrusion
upon grief, and not less upon the wretched little secrets of poverty
which pride is so fain to conceal ; and now these splutterings of a
frying-pan foundered me quite. What worse intrusion could
there be than to come prying in upon the cooking of some poor
little meal ?
Too much embarrassed to make the right apology (which, to
be right, would have been without any embarrassment at all) I
entered the room, in which everything could be seen in one
straightforward glance : the little square table in the centre, with
its old green cover and the squat lamp on it, the two chairs, the
dingy half carpet, the bed wherein a child lay asleep in a lovely
flush of colour, and the pale woman with a still face, and with the
eyes that are said to resemble agates, standing before the hearth.
Under the dark cloud of her hair she looked the very picture of
Suffering Suffering too proud to complain and too tired to speak.
Beautiful as the lines of her face were, it was white as ashes and
spoke their meaning ; but nothing had yet tamed the upspringing
nobility of her tall, slight, and yet imperious form.
Receiving me with the very least appearance of curiosity or any
other kind of interest, but yet with something of proud constraint
(which I attributed too much, perhaps, to the untimely frying-
pan), she waved her hand toward the farther chair of the two, and
asked to be excused from giving me her attention for a moment.
By that she evidently meant that otherwise her supper would be
spoiled. It is not everything that can be left to cook unattended ;
14 The Gospel of Content
and since this poor little supper was a piece of fish scarce bigger
than her hand, it was all the more likely to spoil and the less
could be spared in damage. So I quietly took my seat in a position
which more naturally commanded the view out of window than or
the cooking operations, and waited to be again addressed.
On the mantel-board a noisy little American clock ticked as ir
its mission was to hurry time rather than to measure it, the frying-
pan fizzed and bubbled without any abatement of its usual habit
or any sense of compunction, now and then the child tossed upon
the bed from one pretty attitude to another ; and that was all that
could be heard, for Madame Vernet s movements were as silent as
the movements of a shadow. In almost any part of that small
room she could be seen without direct looking; but at a moment
when she seemed struck into a yet deeper silence, and because of
it, I ventured to turn upon her more than half an eye. Standing
rigidly still, she was staring at the door in an intensity of listening
that transfigured her. But the door was closed, and I with the
best of hearing directed to the same place could detect no new
sound : indeed, I dare swear that there was none. It was merely
accidental that just at this moment the child, with another toss of
the lovely black head, opened her eyes wide ; but it deepened the
impressiveness of the scene when her mother, seeing the little one
awake, placed a finger on her own lips as she advanced nearer to
the door. The gesture was for silence, and it was obeyed as if in
understood fear. But still there was nothing to be heard without,
unless it were a push of soft drizzle against the window-panes.
And this Madame Vernet herself seemed to think when, after a
little while, she turned back to the fire her eyes mere agates
again which had been all ablaze.
Stooping to the fender, she had now got her fish into one warm
plate, and had covered it with another, and had placed it on the
By Frederick Greenwood 15
broad old-fashioned hob of the grate to keep hot (as I surmised)
while she spoke with and got rid of me, when knocking was heard
at the outer door, a pair or hasty feet came bounding up the
stair, careless of noise, and in flashed a splendid radiant creature
of a man in a thin summer coat, and literally drenched to the skin.
It was Monsieur Vernet, whose real name ended in " ieff."
By daring ingenuity, by a long chain of connivance yet more
hazardous, by courage, effrontery, and one or two miraculous
strokes of good fortune, he had escaped from the fortress to which
he had been conveyed in secret and without the least spark of
hope that he would ever be released. For many months no one
but himself and his jailers knew whether he was alive or dead : his
friends inclined to think him the one thing or the other according
to the brightness or the gloominess or the hour. Smuggled into
Germany, and running thence into Belgium, he had landed in
England the night before ; and walking the whole distance to
London, with an interval of rour hours sleep in a cartshed, he
contrived to bring home nearly all of the four shillings with
which he started.
But these particulars, it will be understood, I did not learn
till afterwards. For that evening my visit was at an end from
the moment (the first of his appearance) when Vernet seized his
wife in his arms with a partial resemblance to murder. Un
observed, I placed my small packet on the table behind the lamp,
and then slipped out ; but not without a last view of that affecting
" domestic interior," which showed me those two people in a
relaxed embrace while they made me a courteous salute in response
to another which was all awkwardness, their little daughter stand
ing up on the bed in her night-gown, patiently yet eagerly
waiting to be noticed by her father. In all likelihood she had not
to wait long.
1 6 The Gospel of Content
This was the beginning of my acquaintance with a man who
had a greater number of positive ideas than any one else that ever
I have known, with wonderful intrepidity and skill in expound
ing or defending them. However fine the faculties of some
other Russians whom I have encountered, they seemed to move
in a heavily obstructive atmosphere ; Vernet appeared to be oppressed
by none. His resolutions were as prompt as his thought ; what
ever resourse he could command in any difficulty, whether the
least or the greatest, presented itself to his mind instantly, with
the occasion for it ; and every movement of his body had the same
quickness and precision. His pride, his pride of aristocracy, could
tower to extraordinary heights ; his sensibility to personal slights
and indignities was so trenchant that I have seen him white and
quivering with rage when he thought himself rudely jostled by a
fellow-passenger in a crowded street. And yet any comrade in
conspiracy was his familiar if he only brought daring enough
into the common business ; and wife, child, fortune, the exchange
of ease for the most desperate misery, all were put at stake for
the sake of the People and at the call of their sorrows and
oppressions. And of one sort of pride he had no sense whatever
fine gentleman as he was, and used from his birth to every refine
ment of service and luxury : no degree of poverty, nor any
blameless shift for relieving it, touched him as humiliating. Priva
tion, whether for others or himself, angered him ; the contrast
between slothful wealth and toiling misery enraged him ; but he
had no conception of want and its wretched little expedients as
For example. It was in November, that dreary and inclement
month, when he began life anew in England with a capital or
three shillings and sevenpence. It was a bleak afternoon in
December, sleet lightly falling as the dusk came on and melting
By Frederick Greenwood 17
as it fell, when I found him gathering into a little basket what
looked in the half-darkness like monstrous large snails. With as
much indifference as if he were offering me a new kind of
cigarette, Vernet put one of these things into my hand, and I
saw that it was a beautifully-made miniature sailor s hat. The
strands of which it was built were just like twisted brown straw
to the eye, though they were of the smallness of packthread ; and
a neat band of ribbon proportionately slender made all complete.
But what were they for ? How were they made ? The answer
was that the design was to sell them, and that they were made of the
cords more artistically twisted and more neatly waxed than usual
that shoemakers use in sewing. As for the bands, Madame
Vernet had amongst her treasures a cap which her little daughter
had worn in her babyhood ; and this cap had close frills of lace,
and the frills were inter-studded with tiny loops of ribbon a
fashion of that time. There were dozens of these tiny loops, and
every one of them made a band for Vernet s little toy hats.
Perhaps in tenderness for the mother s feelings, he would not let her
turn the ribbons to their new use, but had applied them himself;
and having spent the whole of a foodless day in the manufacture
of these little articles, he was now about to go and sell them. He
had selected his " pitch " in a flaring bustling street a mile away ;
and he asked me (" I must lose no time," he said) to accompany
him in that direction. I did so, with a cold and heavy stone in
my breast which I am sure had no counterpart in his own. As he
marched on, in his light and firm soldierly way, he was loud in praise
of English liberty : at such a moment that was his theme. Arrived
near his " pitch," he bade me good-night with no abatement of
the high and easy air that was natural to him ; and though I
instantly turned back of course, I knew that at a few paces farther
the violently proud man moved off the pathway into the gutter,
1 8 The Gospel of Content
and stood there till eleven o clock ; for not before then did he sell
the last of his little penny hats. Another man, equally proud,
might have done the same thing in Vernet s situation, but not
with Vernet s absolute indifference to everything but the coldness
of the night and the too-great stress of physical want.
But this Russian revolutionist was far too capable and versatile
a man to lie long in low water. He had a genius for industrial
chemistry which soon got him employment and from the sufficiently
comfortable made him prosperous by rapid stages. But what of
that ? Before long another wave of political disturbance rose in
Europe ; Russia, Italy, France, twas all one to Vernet when his
sympathies were roused ; and after one or two temporary disappear
ances he was again lost altogether. There was no news of him for
months ; and then his wife, who all this while had been sinking back
into the pallid speechless deadness of the King s Cross days,
suddenly disappeared too.
For more than thirty years a period of enormous change in all
that men do or think no word of Vernet came to my know
ledge. But though quite passed away he was never forgotten long,
and it was with an inrush of satisfaction that, a year or two ago, I
received this letter from him :
". . . . I have been reading the Review, and it determines
me to solicit a pleasure which I have been at full-cock to ask for
many times since I returned to England in 1887. Let us meet. I
have something to say to you. But let us not meet in this horrifically
large and noisy town. You know Richmond ? You know the Star
By Frederick Greenwood 19
and Garter Hotel there ? Choose a day when you will go to find
me in that hotel. It shall be in a quiet room looking over the trees
and the river, and there we will dine and sit and talk over our dear
tobacco in a right place.
"To say one word of the past, that you may know and then forget.
Marie is gone gone twelve years since ; and my daughter, gone. I
do not speak of them. And do not you expect to find in me any
more the Vernet of old days."
Nor was he. The splendidly robust and soldierly figure of
thirty-five had changed into a thin, fine-featured old man, above
all things gentle, thoughtful, considerate. Except that there was
no suggestion of a second and an inner self in him, he might have
been an ecclesiastic ; as it was, he looked rather as if he had been all
his life a recluse student of books and state affairs.
It was a good little dinner in a bright room overlooking the
garden ; and it was served so early that the declining sunshine of
a June day shone through our claret-glasses when coffee was brought
in. Our first talk was of matters of the least importance our
own changing fortunes over a period of prodigious change for the
whole world. From that personal theme to the greater mutations
that affect all mankind was a quick transition ; and we had not
long been launched on this line of talk before I found that in
very truth nothing had changed more than Vernet himself. It
was the story of Ignatius Loyola over again, in little and with a
"Yes," said he, my mind filling with unspoken wonder at this
during a brief pause in the conversation, " Yes, prison did me
good. Not in the rough way you think, perhaps, as of taking
nonsense out of a man with a stick, but as solitude. Strict
Catholics go into retreat once a year, and it does them good as
Catholics: whether otherwise I do not know, but it is possible.
The Yellow Book Vol. II. B You
2o The Gospel of Content
You have a wild philosopher whom I love ; and wild philosophers
are much the best. In them there is more philosophic sport, more
surprise, more shock; and it is shock that crystallises. They
startle the breath into our own unborn thoughts thoughts formed
in the mind, you know, but without any ninth month for them :
they wait for some outer voice to make them alive. Well, once
upon a time I heard this philosopher, your Mr. Ruskin, say that
only the most noble, most virtuous, most beautiful young men
should be allowed to go to the war ; the others, never. And he
maintained it ah ! in language from some divine madhouse in
heaven. But as to that, it is a great objection that your army is
already small. Yet of this I am nearly sure ; it is the wrong men
who go to gaol. The rogues and thieves should give place to honest
men honest reflective men. Every advantage of that conclusive
solitude is lost on blackguard persons and is mostly turned to harm.
For them prescribe one, two, three applications of your cat-o -nine
" There is knout like it ! " said I, intending a severity of retort
which I hoped would not be quite lost in the pun.
" and then a piece of bread, a shilling, and dismissal to the
most devout repentance that brutish crime is ever acquainted with,
repentance in stripes. Imprisonment is wasted on persons of so
inferior character. Waste it not, and you will have accommodation
for wise men to learn the monk s lesson (did you ever think it ah
foolishness?) that a little imperious hardship, a time of seclusion
with only themselves to talk to themselves, is most improving.
For statesmen and reformers it should be an obligation."
" And according to your experience what is the general course
of the improvement ? In what direction does it run ? "
" At best ? In sum total ? You know me that lam no monk
nor lover of monks, but I say to you wha.t the monk would say
By Frederick Greenwood 21
were he still a man and intelligent. The chief good is rising
above petty irritation, petty contentiousness ; it is patience with
ills that must last long; it is choosing to build out the east wind
instead of running at it with a sword."
"And, if I remember aright, you never had that sword out of
"From twenty years old to fifty, never out of my hand. But
there were excuses no, but more than excuses ; remember that
that was another time. Now how different it is, and what satisfac
tion to have lived to see the change ! "
" And what is the change you are thinking of! "
" One that I have read of only he must not flatter himself that
he alone could find it out in some Review articles of an old
friend of Vernet s whose portrait is before me now." And then,
a little to my distress, but more to my pleasure, he quoted from two
or three forgotten papers of mine on the later developments of
social humanity, the "evolution of goodness " in the relations
of men to each other, the new, great and rapid extension oi
brotherly kindness ; observations and theories which were welcomed
as novel when they were afterwards taken up and enlarged upon
by Mr. Kidd in his book on " Social Evolution."
" For an ancient conspirator and man of the barricades," con
tinued Vernet, by this time pacing the room in the dusk which he
would not allow to be disturbed, " for a blood-and-iron man who
put all his hopes of a better day for his poor devils of fellow-
creatures on the smashing of forms and institutions and the sub
stitution of others, I am rather a surprising convert, don t you
think ? But who could know in those days what was going on
in the common stock of mind by what shall we call it ? Before
your Darwin brought out his explaining word evolution I should
have said that the change came about by a sort of mental chemistry ;
22 The Gospel of Content
that it was due to a kind of chemical ferment in the mind, unsus
pected till it showed entirely new growths and developments.
And even now, you know, I am not quite comfortable with
evolution as the word for this sudden spiritual advance into
what you call common kindness and more learned persons call
altruism. It does not satisfy me, evolution."
" But you can say why it doesn t, perhaps."
" Nothing, more, I suppose, than the familiar association of
evolution with slow degrees and gradual processes. Evolution
seems to speak the natural coming-out of certain developments
from certainorganismsundercertain conditions. The changecomes,
and you see it coming ; and you can look back and trace its
advance. But here? The human mind has been the same for ages ;
subject to the same teaching ; open to the same persuasions and
dissuasions ; as quick to see and as keen to think as it is now ; and
all the while it has been staring on the same cruel scenes of misery
and privation : no, but very often worse. And then, presto ! there
comes a sudden growth of fraternal sentiment all over this field of
the human mind ; and such a growth that if it goes on, if it goes on
straight and well, it will transform the whole world. Transform
its economies ? it will change its very aspect. Towns, streets,
houses will show the difference ; while as to man himself, it
will make him another being. For this is neither a physical
nor a mere intellectual advance. As for that, indeed, perhaps
the intellectual advance hasn t very much farther to go on its
own lines, which are independent of morality, or of goodness
as I prefer to say : the simple word ! Well, do you care if
evolution has pretty nearly done with intellect ? Would you
mind if intellect never made a greater shine ? Will your heart
break if it never ascends to a higher plane than it has reached
already ? "
By Frederick Greenwood 23
" Not a bit ; if, in time, nobody is without a good working share
of what intellect there is amongst us."
" No, not a bit ! Enough of intellect for the good and happi
ness of mankind if we evolve no more of it. But this is another
thing ! This is a spiritual evolution, spiritual advance and develop
ment a very different thing ! Mark you, too, that it is not
shown in a few amongst millions, but is common, general. And
though, as you have said, it may perish at its beginnings, trampled
out by war, the terrible war to come may absolutely confirm it.
For my part, I don t despair of its surviving and spreading even
from the battle-field. It is your own word that not only has the
growth of common kindness been more urgent, rapid and general
this last hundred years than was ever witnessed before in the whole
long history of the world, but it has come out as strongly in
making war as in making peace. It is seen in extending to
foes a benevolence which not long ago would have been thought
ludicrous and even unnatural. Why, then, if that s so, the feeling
may be furthered and intensified by the very horrors of the next
great war, such horrors as there must be ; and God knows ! God
knows ! but from this beginning the spiritual nature of man may
be destined to rise as far above the rudimentary thing it is yet (I
think of a staggering blind puppy) as King Solomon s wits were
above an Eskimo s."
" Still the same enthusiast," I said to myself, " though with so
great a difference." But what struck me most was the reverence
with which he said " God knows ! " For the coolest Encyclopedist
could not have denied the existence of God with a more settled
air than did " the Vernet of old days."
" And yet," so he went on, " were the human race to become
all-righteous in a fortnight, and to push out angels wings from its
shoulders, every one ! every one ! all together on Christmas Day,
24 The Gospel of Content
it would still be the Darwinian process. Yes, we must stick to it,
that it is evolution, I suppose, and I m sure it contents me well
enough. What matter for the process ! And yet do you know
what I think ?
Lights had now been brought in by the waiter a waiter who
really could not understand why not. But we sat by the
open window looking out upon the deepening darkness of the
garden, beyond which the river shone as if by some pale effulgence
of its own, or perhaps by a little store of light saved up from the
liberal sunshine of the day.
"Do you know what I think ?" said Vernet, with the look of
a man who is about to confess a weakness of which he is ashamed.
" I sometimes think that if I were of the orthodox I should draw
an argument for supernatural religion, against your strict materi
alists, from this sudden change of heart in Christian countries.
For that is what it is. It is a change of heart ; or, if you like to
have it so, of spirit ; and the remarkable thing is that it is nothing
else. Whether it lasts or not, this awakening of brotherliness cannot
be completely understood unless that is understood. What else
has changed, these hundred years ? There is no fresh discovery of
human suffering, no new knowledge of the desperate poverty and toil
of so many of our fellow-creatures: nor can we see better with
our eyes, or understand better what we hear and see. This that
we are talking about is a heart-growth, which, as we know, can
make the lowliest peasant divine ; not a mind-growth, which can
be splendid in the coldest and most devilish man. Well, then,
were I of the orthodox I should say this. When, after many
generations, I see a traceless movement of the spirit of man
like the one we are speaking of a movement which, if it gains
in strength and goes on to its natural end, will transfigure human
society and make it infinitely more like heaven I think the
By Frederick Greenwood 25
divine influence upon the development of man as a spirit may be
direct and continuous ; or, it would be better to say, not without
Vernet had to be reminded that the intellectual development of
man had also shown itself in sudden starts and rushes toward per
fection now in one land, now in another ; and never with an
appearance of gradual progress, as might be expected from the nature
of things. And therefore nothing in the spiritual advance which
is declared by the sudden efflorescence of " altruism " dissociates
it from the common theory of evolution. This he was forced to
admit. " I know," he replied ; " and as to intellectual develop
ment showing itself by starts and rushes, it is very obvious." But
though he made the admission, I could see that he preferred belief
in direct influence from above. And this was Vernet ! a most
unexpected example of that Return to Religion which was not so
manifest when we talked together as it is to-day.
" You see, I am a soldier," he resumed, " and a soldier born and
bred does not know how to get on very long without feeling the
presence of a General, a Commander. That I find as I grow
old ; my youth would have been ashamed to acknowledge the
sentiment. And for its own sake, I hope that Science is becoming
an old gentleman too, and willing to see its youthful confidence in
the destruction of religious belief quite upset. For upset it cer
tainly will be, and very much by its own hands. Most of the new
professors were sure that the religious idea was to perish at last in
the light of scientific inquiry. None of them seemed to suspect
what I remember to have read in a fantastic magazine article two
or three years ago, that unbelief in the existence of a providential
God, the dissolution of that belief, would not retard but probably
draw on more quickly the greater and yet unfulfilled triumphs of
Christ on earth. Are you surprised at that ? Certainly it is not
26 The Gospel of Content
the general idea of what unbelief is capable of. And what, says
some one in the story, what are those greater triumphs ? To
which the answer is : The extension of charity, the diffusion of
brotherly love, greed suppressed, luxury shameful, service and self-
sacrifice a common law something like what we see already
between mother and child, it was said. Now what do you think
of that as a consequence of settled unbelief? As for Belief, we
must allow that that has not done much to bring on the greater
triumphs of Christianity."
" And how is Unbelief to do this mighty work r " said I.
" You would like to know ! Why, in a most natural way, and
not at all mysterious. But if you ask in how long a time-
Well, it is thus, as I understand. What the destruction of religious
faith might have made of the world centuries ago we cannot tell ;
nothing much worse, perhaps, than it was under Belief, for belief
can exist with little change of heart. But these are new times.
Unbelief cannot annihilate the common feeling of humanity. On
the contrary, we see that it is just when Science breaks religion
down into agnosticism that a new day of tenderness for suffering
begins, and poverty looks for the first time like a wrong. And
why ? To answer that question we should remember what cen
turies of belief taught us as to the place of man on earth in the
plan of the Creator. This world, it was a scene of probation.
The mystery of pain and suffering, the burdens of life apportioned
so unequally, the wicked prosperous, goodness wretched, innocent
weakness trodden down or used up in starving toil all this was
explained by the scheme of probation. It was only for this life ;
and every hour of it we were under the eyes of a heavenly Father
who knows all and weighs all ; and there will be a future of
redress that will leave no misery unreckoned, no weakness uncon-
sidered, no wrong uncompensated that was patiently borne. Don t
By Frederick Greenwood 27
you remember ? And how comfortable the doctrine was ! How
entirely it soothed our uneasiness when, sitting in warmth and
plenty, we thought of the thousands of poor wretches outside !
And it was a comfort for the poor wretches too, who believed
most when they were most miserable or foully wronged that in
His own good time God would requite or would avenge.
" Very well. But now, says my magazine sermoniser, sup
pose this idea of a heavenly Father a mistake and probation a
fairy tale; suppose that there is no Divine scheme of redress
beyond the grave : how do we mortals stand to each other then ?
How do we stand to each other in a world empty of all promise
beyond it ? What is to become of our scene-of-probation com
placency, we who are happy and fortunate in the midst of so much
wrong ? And if we do not busy ourselves with a new dispensa
tion on their behalf, what hope or consolation is there for the
multitude of our fellow-creatures who are born to unmerited
misery in the only world there is for any of us ? It is clear that
if we must give up the Divine scheme of redress as a dream,
redress is an obligation returned upon ourselves. All will not be
well in another world : all must be put right in this world or no
where and never. Dispossessed of God and a future life, mankind
is reduced to the condition of the wild creatures, each with a
natural right to ravage for its own good. If in such conditions
there is a duty of forbearance from ravaging, there is a duty of
helpful surrender too ; and unbelief must teach both duties, unless
it would import upon earth the hell it denies. Unbelief is a call
to bring in the justice, the compassion, the oneness of brother
hood that can never make a heaven for us elsewhere. So the
thing goes on ; the end of the argument being that in this way
unbelief itself may turn to the service of Heaven and do the work
of the believer s God. More than that : in the doing of it the
28 The Gospel of Content
spiritual nature of man must be exalted, step by step. That may
be its way of perfection. On that path it will rise higher and
higher into Divine illuminations which have touched it but very
feebly as yet, even after countless ages of existence.
" Do you recognise these speculations ? " said Vernet, after a
I recognised them well enough, without at all anticipating that
so much of them would presently re-appear in the formal theory
of more than one social philosopher.
There was a piano in the little room we dined in. For a
minute or two Vernet, standing with his cigar between his lips,
went lightly over the keys. The movement, though extremely
quick, was wonderfully soft, so that he had not to raise his voice
in saying :
" I have an innocent little speculation of my own. How long
will it be before this spiritual perfectioning is pretty near accom
plishment ? Two thousand years ? One thousand years ?
Twenty generations at the least ! Ah, that is the despair of us
poor wretches of to-day and to-morrow. Well, when the time
comes I fancy that an entirely new literature will have a new
language. There will certainly be a new literature if ever spiritual
progress equals intellectual progress. The dawning of conceptions
as yet undreamt of, enlightenments higher than any yet attained
to, may be looked for, I suppose, as in the natural order of things ;
and even without extraordinary revelations to the spirit, the spiritual
advance must have an enormous effect in disabusing, informing
and inspiring mental faculty such as we know it now. And
meanwhile ? Meanwhile words are all that we speak with, and
how weak are words ? Already there are heights and depths of
feeling which they are hardly more adequate to express than the
dumbness of the dog can express his love for his master. Yet
By Frederick Greenwood 29
there is a language that speaks to the deeper thought and finer
spirit in us as words do not moving them profoundly though
they have no power of articulate response. They heave and struggle
to reply, till our breasts are actually conscious of pain sometimes ;
but no articulate answer. Do you recognise - ?
I pointed to the piano with the finger of interrogation.
" Yes," said Vernet, with a delicate sweep of the keyboard,
" it is this ! It is music ; music, which is felt to be the most
subtle, most appealing, most various of tongues even while we
know that we are never more than half awake to its pregnant
meanings, and have not learnt to think of it as becoming the last
perfection of speech. But that may be its appointed destiny. No,
I don t think so only because music itself is a thing of late, speedy
and splendid development, coming just before the later diffusion of
spiritual growth. Yet there is something in that, something
which an evolutionist would think apposite and to be expected.
There is more, however, in what music is a voice always under
stood to have powerful innumerable meanings appealing to we
know not what in us, we hardly know how ; and more, again, in
its being an exquisite voice which can make no use of reason, nor
reason of it ; nor calculation, nor barter, nor anything but
emotion and thought. The language we are using now, we two,
is animal language by direct pedigree, which is worth observation
don t you think ? And, for another thing, when it began it had
very small likelihood of ever developing into what it has become
under the constant addition of man s business in the world and
the accretive demands of reason and speculation. And the poets
have made it very beautiful no doubt ; yes, and when it is most
beautiful it is most musical, please observe : most beautiful, and
at the same time most meaning. Well, then ! A new nature,
new needs. What do you think ? What do you say against
30 The Gospel of Content
music being wrought into another language for mankind, as it
nears the height of its spiritual growth ?
"Isay it isa pretty fancy, and quitewithinreasonablespeculation."
" But yet not of the profoundest consequence," added Vernet,
coming from the piano and resuming his seat by the window.
" No ; but what is of consequence is the cruel tedium of these evolu
tionary processes. A thousand years, and how much movement ?
" Remember the sudden starts towards perfection, and that the
farther we advance the more we may be able to help."
"Well, but that is the very thing I meant to say. Help is not
only desirable, it is imperatively called for. For an unfortunate
offensive movement risesagai nst this better one,which will bechecked,
or perhaps thrown back altogether, unless the stupid reformers who
confront the new spirit of kindness with the highwayman s demand
are brought to reason. What I most willingly yield to friend and
brother I do not choose to yield to an insulting thief ; rather
will I break his head in the cause of divine Civility. Robbery is
no way of righteousness, and your gallant reformers who think it
a fine heroic means of bringing on a better time for humanity should
be taught that some devil has put the wrong plan into their heads.
It is his way of continuing under new conditions the old conflict
of evil and good."
"But taught ! How should these so-earnest ones be taught ?"
" Ah, how ! Then leave the reformers ; and while they inculcate
their mistaken Gospel of Rancour, let every wise man preach the
Gospel of Content."
"Content with things as they are ?"
"Why, no, my friend; for that would be preaching content
with universal uncontent, which of course cannot last into a
reign of wisdom and peace. But if you ask me whether I mean
content with a very very little of this world s goods, or even con
By Frederick Greenwood 31
tentment in poverty, I say yes. There will be no better day till
that gospel has found general acceptance, and has been taken into
the common habitudes of life. The end may be distant enough ;
but it is your own opinion that the time is already ripe for the
preacher, and if he were no Peter the Hermit but only another,
" Father Mathew, inspired with more saintly fervour
"Who knows how far he might carry the divine light to which
so many hearts are awakening in secret ? This first Christianity,
it was but the false dawn. Yes, we may think so."
Here there was a pause for a few moments, and then I put in a
word to the effect that it would be difficult to commend a gospel
of content to Poverty.
"But," said Vernet, " it will be addressed more to the rich and
well-to-do, as you call them, bidding them be content with enough.
Not forbidding them to strive for more than enough that would
never do. The good of mankind demands that all its energies
should be maintained, but not that its energies should be meanly
employed in grubbing for the luxury that is no enjoyment but only
a show, or that palls as soon as it is once enjoyed, and then is no
more felt as luxury than the labourer s second pair of boots or the
mechanic s third shirt a week. For the men of thousands per
annum the Gospel of Content would be the wise, wise, wise old
injunction to plain living and high thinking, only with one addi
tion both beautiful and wise : kind thinking, and the high and the
kind thinking made good in deed. And it would work, this gospel ;
we may be sure of it already. For luxury has became common ; it
is being found out. Where there was one person at the beginning
of the century who had daily experience of its fatiguing disappoint
ments, now there are fifty. Like everything else, it loses dis
tinction by coming abundantly into all sorts of hands ; and mean
32 The Gospel of Content
while other and nobler kinds of distinction have multiplied and
have gained acknowledgment. And from losing distinction
this you must have observed luxury is becoming vulgar ; and I
don t know why the time should be so very far off when it will be
accounted shameful. Certain it is that year by year a greater
number of minds, and such as mostly determine the currents of
social sentiment, think luxury low ; without going deeper than the
mere look of it, perhaps. These are hopeful signs. Here is good
encouragement to stand out and preach a gospel of content which
would be an education in simplicity, dignity, happiness, and yet
more an education of heart and spirit. For nothing that a man
can do in this world works so powerfully for his own spiritual good
as the habit of sacrifice to kindness. It is so like a miracle that it
is, I am sure, the one way the one way appointed by the laws or
our spiritual growth.
"Yes, and what about preaching the gospel of content to Poverty ?
Well, there we must be careful to discriminate careful to dis
entangle poverty from some other things which are the same thing
in the common idea. Say but this, that there must be no content
with squalor, none with any sort of uncleanness, and poverty takes
its own separate place and its own unsmirched aspect. An honour
able poverty, clear of squalor, any man should be able to endure
with a tranquil mind. To attain to that tranquillity is to attain to
nobleness ; and persistence in it, though effort fail and desert go
quite without reward, ennobles. Contentment in poverty does not
mean crouching to it or under it. Contentment is not cowardice,
but fortitude. There is no truer assertion of manliness, and none
with more grace and sweetness. Before it can have an established
place in the breast of any man, envy must depart from it envy,
jealousy, greed, readiness to take half-honest gains, a horde of small
ignoble sentiments not only disturbing but poisonous to the
By Frederick Greenwood 33
ground they grow in. Ah, believe me ! if a man had eloquence
enough, fire enough, and that command of sympathy that your
Gordon seems to have had (not to speak of a man like Mahomet or
to touch on more sacred names), he might do wonders for mankind
in a single generation by preaching to rich and poor the several
doctrines of the Gospel of Content. A curse on the mean
strivings, stealings, and hoardings that survive from our animal
ancestry, and another curse (by your permission) on the gaudy
vanities that we have set up for objects in life since we became
In effect,here the conversation ended. More was said, but nothing
worth recalling. Drifting back to less serious talk, we gossiped
till midnight, and then parted with the heartiest desire (I speak for
myself) of meeting soon again. But on our way back to town Vernet
recurred for a moment to the subject of his di course, saying :
" I don t make out exactly what you think now of the prospect
we were talking of."
My answer pleased him. " I incline to think," said I, " what I
have long thought : that if there is any such future for us, and I
believe there is, we of the older European nations will be nowhere
when it comes. In existence yes, perhaps ; but gone down.
You see we are becoming greybeards already ; while you in Russia
are boys, with every mark of boyhood on you. You, you are a
new race the only new race in the world ; and it is plain that
you swarm with ideas of precisely the kind that, when you come
to maturity, may re-invigorate the world. But first, who knows
what deadly wars ? "
He pressed his hand upon my knee in a way that spoke a great
deal. We parted, and two months afterwards the Vernet whose
real name ended in " ieff" was " happed in lead."
Poor Cousin Louis
By Ella D Arcy
THERE stands in the Islands a house known as " Les Calais."
It has stood there already some three hundred years, and
do judge from its stout walls and weather-tight appearance,
promises to stand some three hundred more. Built of brown
home-quarried stone, with solid stone chimney-stacks and roof
of red tiles, its door is set in the centre beneath a semi-circular
arch of dressed granite, on the keystone of which is deeply cut
the date of construction :
J V N I
Above the date straggle the letters, L G M M, initials of the
forgotten names of the builder of the house and of the woman
he married. In the summer weather of 1603 that inscription
was cut, and the man and woman doubtless read it with pride and
pleasure as they stood looking up at their fine new homestead.
They believed it would carry their names down to posterity
when they themselves should be gone ; yet there stand the
initials to-day, while the personalities they represent are as lost to
memory as are the builders graves.
At the moment when this little sketch opens, Les Calais had
By Ella D Arcy 35
belonged for three generations to the family of Renouf (pro
nounced Rennuf), and it is with the closing days of Mr. Louis
Renouf that it purposes to deal. But first to complete the
description of the house, which is typical of the Islands : hundreds
of such homesteads placed singly, or in groups then sharing in
one common name may be found there in a day s wallc,
although it must be added that a day s walk almost suffices to
explore any one of the Islands from end to end.
Les Calais shares its name with none. It stands alone, com
pletely hidden, save at one point only, by its ancient elms. On
either side of the doorway are two windows, each of twelve small
panes, and there is a row of five similar windows above. Around
the back and sides of the house cluster all sorts of outbuildings,
necessary dependencies of a time when men made their own
cider and candles, baked their own bread, cut and stacked their
own wood, and dried the dung of their herds for extra winter fuel.
Beyond these lie its vegetable and fruit gardens, which again are
surrounded on every side by its many rich verg^es of pasture
Would you find Les Calais, take the high road from Jacques-
le-Port to the village of St. Gilles, then keep to the left of the
schools along a narrow lane cut between high hedges. It is a
cart track only, as the deep sun-baked ruts testify, leading direct
from St. Gilles to Vauvert, and, likely enough, during the whole of
that distance you will not meet with a solitary person. You will
see nothing but the green running hedgerows on either hand, the
blue-domed sky above, from whence the lark, a black pin-point in
the blue, flings down a gush of song ; while the thrush you have
disturbed lunching off that succulent snail, takes short ground
flights before you, at every pause turning back an ireful eye to
judge how much farther you intend to pursue him. He is happy
The Yellow Book Vol. II. C if
36 Poor Cousin Louis
if you branch off midway to the left down the lane leading
straight to Les Calais.
A gable end of the house faces this lane, and its one window in
the days of Louis Renouf looked down upon a dilapidated farm-
and stable-yard, the gate of which, turned back upon its hinges,
stood wide open to the world. Within might be seen granaries
empty of grain, stables where no horses fed, a long cow-house
crumbling into ruin, and the broken stone sections of a cider
trough dismantled more than half a century back. Cushions of
emerald moss studded the thatches, and liliputian forests of grass-
blades sprang thick between the cobble stones. The place might
have been mistaken for some deserted grange, but for the con
tradiction conveyed in a bright pewter full-bellied water-can stand
ing near the well, in a pile of firewood, with chopper still stuck
in the topmost billet, and in a tatterdemalion troop of barn-door
fowl lagging meditatively across the yard.
On a certain day, when summer warmth and unbroken silence
brooded over all, and the broad sunshine blent the yellows, reds,
and greys of tile and stone, the greens of grass and foliage, into
one harmonious whole, a visitor entered the open gate. This was
a tall, large young woman, with a fair, smooth, thirty-year-old
face. Dressed in what was obviously her Sunday best, although it
was neither Sunday nor even market-day, she wore a bonnet
diademed with gas-green lilies of the valley, a netted black
mantilla, and a velvet-trimmed violet silk gown, which she
carefully lifted out of dust s way, thus displaying a stiffly starched
petticoat and kid spring-side boots.
Such attire, unbeautiful in itself and incongruous with its sur
roundings, jarred harshly with the picturesque note of the scene.
From being a subject to perpetuate on canvas, it shrunk, as it were,
to the background of a cheap photograph, or the stage adjuncts
By Ella D Arcy 37
to the heroine of a farce. The silence too was shattered as the
new comer s foot fell upon the stones. An unseen dog began
to mouth a joyous welcome, and the fowls, lifting their thin,
apprehensive faces towards her, flopped into a clumsy run as
though their last hour were visible.
The visitor meanwhile turned familiar steps to a door in the
wall on the left, and raising the latch, entered the flower garden of
Les Calais. This garden, lying to the south, consisted then, and
perhaps does still, of two square grass-plots with a broad gravel
path running round them and up to the centre of the house.
In marked contrast with the neglect of the farmyard was this
exquisitely kept garden, brilliant and fragrant with flowers. From
a raised bed in the centre of each plot standard rose-trees shed out
gorgeous perfume from chalices of every shade of loveliness, and
thousands of white pinks justled shoulder to shoulder in narrow
bands cut within the borders of the grass.
Busy over these, his back towards her, was an elderly man,
braces hanging, in coloured cotton shirt. " Good afternoon,
Tourtel," cried the lady, advancing. Thus addressed, he straight
ened himself slowly and turned round. Leaning on his hoe, he
shaded his eyes with his hand. "Eh den! it s you, Missis
Pedvinn," said he ; " but we didn t expec you till to-morrow ? "
" No, it s true," said Mrs. Poidevin, " that I wrote I would
come Saturday, but Pedvinn expects some friends by the English
boat, and wants me to receive them. Yet as they may be stay
ing the week, I did not like to put poor Cousin Louis off so long
without a visit, so thought I had better come up to-day."
Almost unconsciously, her phrases assumed apologetic form.
She had an uneasy feeling Tourtel s wife might resent her un
expected advent ; although why Mrs. Tourtel should object, or
why she herself should stand in any awe of the Tourtels, she
38 Poor Cousin Louis
could not have explained. Tourtel was but gardener, the wite
housekeeper and nurse, to her cousin Louis Renouf, master of Les
Calais. " I sha n t inconvenience Mrs. Tourtel, I hope ? Of
course I shouldn t think of staying tea if she is busy ; I ll just sit
an hour with Cousin Louis, and catch the six o clock omnibus
home from Vauvert."
Tourtel stood looking at her with wooden countenance, in
which two small shifting eyes alone gave signs of life. "Eh,
but you won t be no inconvenience to de ole woman, ma am,"
said he suddenly, in so loud a voice that Mrs. Poidevin jumped ;
" only de apple-goche, dat she was goin to bake agen your visit,
won t be ready, dat s all."
He turned, and stared up at the front of the house ; Mrs.
Poidevin, for no reason at all, did so too. Door and windows
were open wide. In the upper storey, the white roller-blinds were
let down against the sun, and on the broad sills of the parlour
windows were nosegays placed in blue china jars. A white
trellis-work criss-crossed over the fa9ade, for the support of
climbing ) rose and purple clematis which hung out a curtain of
blossom almost concealing the masonry behind. The whole
place breathed of peace and beauty, and Louisa Poidevin was
lapped round with that pleasant sense of well-being which it
was her chief desire in life never to lose. Though poor Cousin
Louis feeble, childish, solitary was so much to be pitied, at
least in his comfortable home and his worthy Tourtels he found
An instant after Tourtel had spoken, a woman passed across
the wide hall. She had on a blue linen skirt, white stockings, and
shoes of grey list. The strings of a large, bibbed, lilac apron
drew the folds of a flowered bed-jacket about her ample waist ;
and her thick yellow-grey hair, worn without a cap, was arranged
By Ella D Arcy 39
smoothly on either side of a narrow head. She just glanced
and Mrs. Poidevin was on the point of calling to her, when
Tourtel fell into a torrent of words about his flowers. He had so
much to say on the subject of horticulture ; was so anxious for
her to examine the freesia bulbs lying in the tool-house, just
separated from the spring plants ; he denounced so fiercely the
grinding policy of Brehault the middleman, who purchased his
garden stuff to resell it at Covent Garden "my good! on dem
freesias I didn t make not two doubles a bunch ! " that for a long
quarter of an hour all memory of her cousin was driven from
Mrs. Poidevin s brain. Then a voice said at her elbow, "Mr.
Rennuf is quite ready to see you, ma am," and there stood Tourtel s
wife, with pale composed face, square shoulders and hips, and feet
that moved noiselessly in her list slippers.
"Ah, Mrs. Tourtel, how do you do?" said the visitor; a
question which in the Islands is no mere formula, but demands
and obtains a detailed answer, after which the questioner s own
health is politely inquired into. Not until this ceremony had
been scrupulously accomplished, and the two women were on
their way to the house, did Mrs. Poidevin beg to know how
things were going with her " poor cousin."
There lay something at variance between the ruthless, calculat
ing spirit which looked forth from the housekeeper s cold eye, and
the extreme suavity of her manner of speech.
"Eh, my good ! but much de same, ma am, in his health,
an more fancies dan ever in his head. First one ting an
den anudder, an always tinking dat everybody is robbin him.
You rem-ember de larse time you was here, an Mister Rennuf
was abed ? Well, den, after you was gone, if he didn t deck-
clare you had taken some of de fedders of his bed away wid
you. Yes, my good ! he tought you had cut a hole in de
40 Poor Cousin Louis
tick, as you sat dere beside him an emptied de fedders away
into your pocket."
Mrs. Poidevin was much interested. " Dear me, is it possible ?
.... But it s quite a mania with him. I remember now, on
that very day he complained to me Tourtel was wearing his shirts,
and wanted me to go in with him to Lepage s to order some new
"Eh! but what would Tourtel want wid fine white shirts
like dem ?" said the wife placidly. "But Mr. Louis have such
dozens an dozens of em dat dey gets hidden away in de presses,
an he tinks dem stolen."
They reached the house. The interior is quite as characteristic
of the Islands as is the outside. Two steps take you down
into the hall, crossing the further end of which is the staircase
with its balustrade of carved black oak. Instead of the mean
painted sticks, known technically as " raisers," and connected
together at the top by a vulgar mahogany hand-rail a funda
mental article of faith with the modern builder these old
Island balustrades are formed of wooden panels, fretted out
into scrolls, representing flower, or leaf, or curious beaked and
winged creatures, which go curving, creeping, and ramping along
in the direction of the stairs. In every house you will find the
detail different, while each resembles all as a whole. For in the
old days the workman, were he never so humble, recognised the
possession of an individual mind, as well as of two eyes and two
hands, and he translated fearlessly this individuality of his into
his work. Every house built in those days and existing down
to these, is not only a confession, in some sort, of the tastes, the
habits, the character, of the man who planned it, but preserves
a record likewise of every one of the subordinate minds employed
in the various parts.
By Ella D Arcy 41
Off the hall of Les Calais are two rooms on the left and one on
the right. The solidity of early seventeenth-century walls is shown
in the embrasure depth (measuring fully three feet) of windows and
doors. Up to fifty years ago all the windows had leaded casements,
as had every similar Island dwelling-house. To-day, to the
artist s regret, you will hardly find one. The showy taste of the
Second Empire spread from Paris even to these remote parts,
and plate-glass, or at least oblong panes, everywhere replaced the
mediaeval style. In 1854, Louis Renouf, just three and thirty,
was about to bring his bride, Miss Marie Mauger, home to the
old house. In her honour it was done up throughout, and the
diamonded casements were replaced by guillotine windows, six
panes to each sash.
The best parlour then became a " drawing-room " ; its raftered
ceiling was whitewashed, and its great centre-beam of oak in
famously papered to match the walls. The newly married couple
were not in a position to refurnish in approved Second Empire
fashion. The gilt and marble, the console tables and mirrors, the
impossibly curved sofas and chairs, were for the moment beyond
them ; the wife promised herself to acquire these later on. But
later on came a brood of sickly children (only one of whom
reached manhood) ; to the consequent expenses Les Calais owed
the preservation of its inlaid wardrobes, its four-post bedsteads
with slender fluted columns, and its Chippendale parlour chairs, the
backs of which simulate a delicious intricacy of twisted ribbons.
As a little girl, Louisa Poidevin had often amused herself studying
these convolutions, and seeking to puzzle out among the rippling
ribbons some beginning or some end ; but as she grew up, even
the simplest problem lost interest for her, and the sight of the old
Chippendale chairs standing along the walls of the large parlour
scarcely stirred her bovine mind now to so much as reminiscence.
42 Poor Cousin Louis
It was the door of this large parlour that the housekeeper
opened as she announced, " Here is Mrs. Pedvinn come to see
you, sir," and followed the visitor in.
Sitting in a capacious " berceuse," stuffed and chintz-covered,
was the shrunken figure of a more than seventy-year-old man.
He was wrapped in a worn grey dressing-gown, with a black
velvet skull-cap, napless at the seams, covering his spiritless hair,
and he looked out upon his narrow world from dim eyes set in
cavernous orbits. In their expression was something of the
questioning timidity of a child, contrasting curiously with the
querulousness of old age, shown in the thin sucked-in lips, now
and again twitched by a movement in unison with the twitching
of the withered hands spread out upon his knees.
The sunshine, slanting through the low windows, bathed hands
and knees, lean shanks and slippered feet, in mote-flecked streams
of gold. It bathed anew rafters and ceiling-beam, as it had done
at the same hour and season these last three hundred years ; it
played over the worm-eaten furniture, and lent transitory colour
to the faded samplers on the walls, bringing into prominence one
particular sampler, which depicted in silks Adam and Eve seated
beneath the fatal tree, and recorded the fact that Marie Hoched
was seventeen in 1808 and put her "trust in God" ; and the
same ray kissed the cheek of that very Marie s son, who at the
time her girlish fingers pricked the canvas belonged to the envi
able myriads of the unthought-of and the unborn.
"Why, how cold you are, Cousin Louis," said Mrs. Poidevin,
taking his passive hand between her two warm ones, and feeling
a chill strike from it through the violet kid gloves ; "and in
spite of all this sunshine too ! "
" Ah, I m not always in the sunshine," said the old man ;
"not always, not always in the sunshine." She was not sure
By Ella D Arcy 43
that he recognised her, yet he kept hold of her hand and would
not let it go.
"No ; you are not always in de sunshine, because de sunshine
is not always here," observed Mrs. Tourtel in a reasonable voice,
and with a side glance for the visitor.
"And I am not always here either," he murmured, half to him
self. He took a firmer hold of his cousin s hand, and seemed to
gain courage from the comfortable touch, for his thin voice
changed from complaint to command. " You can go, Mrs.
Tourtel," he said ; " we don t require you here. We want to
talk. You can go and set the tea-things in the next room. My
cousin will stay and drink tea with me."
"Why, my cert nly ! of course Mrs. Pedvinn will stay tea.
PVaps you d like to put your bonnet off in the bedroom, first,
ma am ? "
"No, no," he interposed testily, "she can lay it off here. No
need for you to take her upstairs."
Servant and master exchanged a mute look ; for the moment
his old eyes were lighted up with the unforeseeing, unveiled triumph
of a child; then they fell before hers. She turned, leaving the
room with noiseless tread ; although a large-built, ponderous
woman, she walked with the softness of a cat.
" Sit down here close beside me," said Louis Renouf to
his cousin, " I ve something to tell you, something very impor
tant to tell you." He lowered his voice mysteriously, and glanced
with apprehension at window and door, squeezing tight her hand.
" I m being robbed, my dear, robbed of everything I possess."
Mrs. Poidevin, already prepared for such a statement, answered
complacently, " Oh, it must be your fancy, Cousin Louis.
Mrs. Tourtel takes too good care of you for that."
" My dear," he whispered, "silver, linen, everything is going ;
44 Poor Cousin Louis
even my fine white shirts from the shelves of the wardrobe.
Yet everything belongs to poor John, who is in Australia, and
who never writes to his father now. His last letter is ten years
old ten years old, my dear, and I don t need to read it over,
for I know it by heart."
Tears of weakness gathered in his eyes, and began to trickle
over on to his cheek.
" Oh, Cousin John will write soon, I m sure," said Mrs.
Poidevin, with easy optimism; "I shouldn t wonder if he has
made a fortune, and is on his way home to you at this moment."
" Ah, he will never make a fortune, my dear, he was always
too fond of change. He had excellent capabilities, Louisa, but he
was too fond of change And yet I often sit and pretend
to myself he has made money, and is as proud to be with his poor
old father as he used to be when quite a little lad. I plan out
all we should do, and all he would say, and just how he would
look .... but that s only my make-believe ; John will never
make money, never. But I d be glad if he would come back to
the old home, though it were without a penny. For if he don t
come soon, he ll find no home, and no welcome I raised
all the money I could when he went away, and now, as you know,
my dear, the house and land go to you and Pedvinn But
I d like my poor boy to have the silver and linen, and his mother s
furniture and needlework to remember us by."
" Yes, cousin, and he will have them some day, but not for a
great while yet, I hope."
Louis Renouf shook his head, with the immovable obstinacy of
the very old or the very young.
" Louisa, mark my words, he will get nothing, nothing.
Everything is going. They ll make away with the chairs and
the tables next, with the very bed I lie on."
By Ella D Arcy 45
"Oh, Cousin Louis, you mustn t think such things," said
Mrs. Poidevin serenely ; had not the poor old man accused her
to the Tourtels of filching his mattress feathers ?
" Ah, you don t believe me, my dear," said he, with a resig
nation which was pathetic: "but you ll remember my words
when I am gone. Six dozen rat-tailed silver forks, with silver
candlesticks, and tray, and snuffers. Besides odd pieces, and piles
and piles of linen. Your cousin Marie was a notable housekeeper,
and everything she bought was of the very best. The large
table-cloths were five guineas apiece, my dear, British money-
five guineas apiece."
Louisa listened with perfect calmness and scant attention.
Circumstances too comfortable, and a too abundant diet, had
gradually undermined with her all perceptive and reflective
powers. Though, of course, had the household effects been
coming to her as well as the land, she would have felt more
interest in them ; but it is only human nature to contemplate the
possible losses of others with equanimity.
" They must be handsome cloths, cousin," she said pleasantly ;
" I m sure Pedvinn would never allow me half so much for mine."
At this moment there appeared, framed in the open window,
the hideous vision of an animated gargoyle, with elf-locks of
flaming red, and an intense malignancy of expression. With a
finger dragging down the under eyelid of either eye, so that the
eyeball seemed to bulge out with a finger pulling back either
corner of the wide mouth, so that it seemed to touch the ear this
repulsive apparition leered at the old man in blood-curdling
fashion. Then catching sight of Mrs. Poidevin, who sat dum-
founded, and with her " heart in her mouth," as she afterwards
expressed it, the fingers dropped from the face, the features sprang
back into position, and the gargoyle resolved itself into a buxom
46 Poor Cousin Louis
red-haired girl, who, bursting into a laugh, impudently stuck her
tongue out at them before skipping away.
The old man had cowered down in his chair with his hands
over his eyes ; now he looked up. " I thought it was the old
Judy," he said, " the old Judy she is always telling me about.
But it s only Margot."
" And who is Margot, cousin ? " inquired Louisa, still shaken
from the surprise.
" She helps in the kitchen. But I don t like her. She pulls
faces at me, and jumps out upon me from behind doors. And
when the wind blows and the windows rattle she tells me about
the old Judy from Jethou, who is sailing over the sea on a broom
stick, to come and beat me to death. Do you know, my dear,"
he said piteously, "you ll think I m very silly, but I m afraid up
here by myself all alone ? Do not leave me, Louisa ; stay with
me, or take me back to town with you. Pedvinn would let me
have a room in your house, I m sure ? And you wouldn t find me
much trouble, and of course I would bring my own bed linen, you
" You had best take your tea first, sir," said Mrs. Tourtel
from outside the window ; she held scissors in her hand, and
was busy trimming the roses. She offered no excuse for eaves
The meal was set out, Island fashion, with abundant cakes
and sweets. Louisa saw in the silver tea-set another proof, if
need be, of her cousin s unfounded suspicions. Mrs. Tourtel
stood in the background, waiting. Renouf desired her to pack
his things ; he was going into town. " To be sure, sir," she said
civilly, and remained where she stood. He brought a clenched
hand down upon the table, so that the china rattled. " Are you
master here, or am I ? " he cried ; "I am going down to my cousin
By Ella D Arcy 47
Pedvinn s. To-morrow I shall send my notary to put seals on
everything, and to take an inventory. For the future I shall live
His senility had suddenly left him ; he spoke with firmness ;
it was a flash-up of almost extinct fires. Louisa was astounded.
Mrs. Tourtel looked at him steadily. Through the partition
wall, Tourtel in the kitchen heard the raised voice, and followed
his curiosity into the parlour. Margot followed him. Seen near,
and with her features at rest, she appeared a plump touzle-headed
girl, in whose low forehead and loose-lipped mouth, crassness,
cruelty, and sensuality were unmistakably expressed. Yet freckled
cheek, rounded chin, and bare red mottled arms, presented the
beautiful curves of youth, and there was a certain sort of attractive
ness about her not to be gainsaid.
"Since my servants refuse to pack what I require," said Renouf
with dignity, " I will do it myself. Come with me, Louisa."
At a sign from the housekeeper, Tourtel and Margot made
way. Mrs. Poidevin would have followed her cousin, as the easiest
thing to do although she was confused by the old man s outbreak,
and incapable of deciding what course she should take when the
deep vindictive baying of the dog ushered a new personage upon
This was an individual who made his appearance from the
kitchen regions a tall thin man of about thirty years of age,
with a pallid skin, a dark eye and a heavy moustache. His shabby
black coat and tie, with the cords and gaiters that clothed his legs,
suggested a combination of sportsman and family practitioner.
He wore a bowler hat, and was pulling off tan driving gloves as he
" Ah my good ! Doctor Owen, but dat s you ? " said Mrs.
Tourtel. " But we wants you here badly. Your patient is in one
48 Poor Cousin Louis
of his tantrums, and no one can t do nuddin wid him. He says
he shall go right away into town. Wants to make up again wid
Doctor Lelever for sure."
The new comer and Mrs. Poidevin were examining each other
with the curiosity one feels on first meeting a person long known
by reputation or by sight. But now she turned to the house
keeper in surprise.
" Has my cousin quarrelled with his old friend Doctor
Lelever ? " she asked. "I ve heard nothing of that."
" Ah, dis long time. He tought Doctor Lelever made too
little of his megrims. He won t have nobody but Dr. Owen
now. P r aps you know Doctor Owen, ma am ? Mrs. Pedvinn,
Doctor ; de master s cousin, come up to visit him."
Renouf was heard moving about overhead ; opening presses,
Owen hung up his hat, putting his gloves inside it. He
rubbed his lean discoloured hands lightly together, as a fly cleans
" Shall I just step up to him ?" he said. "It may calm him,
and distract his thoughts."
With soft nimbleness, in a moment he was upstairs. "So
that s Doctor Owen?" observed Mrs. Poidevin with interest.
" A splendid-looking gentleman ! He must be very clever, I m
sure. Is he beginning to get a good practice yet ? "
" Ah, bah, our people, as you know, ma am, dey don t like no
strangers, specially no Englishmen. He was very glad when
Mr. Rennuf sent for him Twas through Margot there.
She got took bad one Saturday coming back from market from de
heat or de squidge " (crowd), " and Doctor Owen he overtook
her on the road in his gig, and druv her home. Den de master,
he must have a talk with him, and so de next time he fancy
By Ella D Arcy 49
hisself ill, he send for Doctor Owen, and since den he don t care
for Dr. Lelever no more at all."
"I ought to be getting off," emarlced Mrs. Poidevin, remem
bering the hour at which the omnibus left Vauvert ; "had I
better go up and bid cousin Louis good-bye ? "
Mrs. Tourtel thought Margot should go and ask the Doctor s
opinion first, but as Margot had already vanished, she went her
There was a longish pause, during which Mrs. Poidevin looked
uneasily at Tourtel ; he with restless furtive eyes at her. Then
the housekeeper reappeared, noiseless, cool, determined as ever.
"Mr. Rennuf is quiet now," she said ; " de Doctor have given
him a soothing draught, and will stay to see how it acts. He
tinks you d better slip quietly away."
On this, Louisa Poidevin left Les Calais ; but in spite of her
easy superficiality, her unreasoning optimism, she took with her
a sense of oppression. Cousin Louis s appeal rang in her ears :
Do not leave me; stay with me, or take me back with you.
I am afraid up here, quite alone." And after all, though his fears
were but the folly of old age, why, she asked herself, should he
not come and stay with them in town if he wished to do so ? She
resolved to talk it over with Pedvinn ; she thought she would
arrange for him the little west room, being the furthest from the
nurseries ; and in planning out such vastly important trifles as to
which easy-chair and which bedroom candlestick she would devote
to his use, she forgot the old man himself and recovered her usual
When Owen had entered the bedroom, he had found Renouf
standing over an open portmanteau, into which he was placing
hurriedly whatever caught his eye or took his fancy, from the
surrounding tables. His hand trembled from eagerness, his pale
50 Poor Cousin Louis
old face was flushed with excitement and hope. Owen, going
straight up to him, put his two hands on his shoulders, and
without uttering a word, gently forced him backwards into a
chair. Then he sat down in front of him, so close that their
knees touched, and fixing his strong eyes on Renouf s wavering
ones, and stroking with his finger-tips the muscles behind the ears,
he threw him immediately into an hypnotic trance.
" You want to stay here, don t you ? " said Owen emphatically.
" I want to stay here," repeated the old man through grey lips.
His face was become the colour of ashes, his hands were cold to
the sight. "You want your cousin to go away and not disturb
you any more ? Answer answer me." " I want my cousin to
go away," Renouf murmured, but in his staring, fading eye were
traces of the struggle tearing him within.
Owen pressed down the eyelids, made another pass before the
face, and rose on his long legs with a sardonic grin. Margot,
leaning across a corner of the bed, had watched him with breath
" I b lieve you re de Evil One himself," she said admiringly.
Owen pinched her smooth chin between his tobacco-stained
thumb and fingers.
" Pooh ! nothing but a trick I learned in Paris," said he ;
" it s very convenient to be able to put a person to sleep now and
" Could you put any one to sleep ? "
" Any one I wanted to."
"Do it to me then," she begged him.
" What use, my girl ? Don t you do all I wish without ? "
She grimaced, and picked at the bed-quilt laughing, then rose
and stood in front of him, her round red arms clasped behind her
head. But he only glanced at her with professional interest.
By Ella D Arcy 51
You should get married, my dear, without delay. Pierre
would be ready enough, no doubt ? " " Bah ! Pierre or annuder
if I brought a weddin portion. You don t tink to provide
me wid one, I s pose ? " You know that I can t. But why
don t you get it from the Tourtels ? You ve earned it before
this, I dare swear."
It was now that the housekeeper came up, and took down to
Louisa Poidevin the message given above. But first she was
detained by Owen, to assist him in getting his patient into bed.
The old man woke up during the process, very peevish, very
determined to get to town. "Well, you can t go till to-morrow
den," said Mrs. Tourtel ; " your cousin has gone home, an now
you ve got to go to sleep, so be quiet." She dropped all semblance
of respect in her tones. " Come, lie down ! " she said sharply,
" or I ll send Margot to tickle your feet." He shivered and
whimpered into silence beneath the clothes.
"Margot tells him bout witches, an ogres, an scrapels her
fingures long de wall, till he tinks dere goin to fly way wid
him," she explained to Owen in an aside. " Oh, I know Margot,"
he answered laconically, and thought, " May I never lie helpless
within reach of such fingers as hers."
He took a step and stumbled over a portmanteau lying open at
his feet. " Put your mischievous paws to some use," he told the
girl, " and clear these things away from the floor ; " then remem
bering his rival Le Lievre ; " if the old fool had really got away
to town, it would have been a nice day s work for us all," he
Downstairs he joined the Tourtels in the kitchen, a room
situated behind the living-room on the left, with low green glass
windows, rafters and woodwork smoke-browned with the fires of
a dozen generations. In the wooden racks over by the chimney
The Yellow Book Vol. II. D hung
52 Poor Cousin Louis
hung flitches of home-cured bacon, and the kettle was suspended
by three chains over the centre of the wide hearth, where glowed
and crackled an armful of sticks. So dark was the room, in spite
of the daylight outside, that two candles were set in the centre of
the table, enclosing in their circles of yellow light the pale face
and silver hair of the housekeeper, and Tourtel s rugged head and
He had glasses ready, and a bottle of the cheap brandy for
which the Island is famous. "You ll take a drop of something,
eh, Doctor ? " he said as Owen seated himself on the jonciere,
a padded settle green baize covered, to replace the primitive
rushes fitted on one side of the hearth. He stretched his long
legs into the light, and for a moment considered moodily the old
gaiters and cobbled boots. " You ve seen to the horse ? " he
" My cert nly ; he s in de stable dis hour back, an I ve
given him a feed. I tought maybe you d make a night of
it ? "
" I may as well for all the work I have to do," said Owen
with sourness ; " a damned little Island this for doctors. No
thing ever the matter with any one except the creeps, and
those who have it spend their last penny in making it worse."
"Dere s as much illness here as anywhere," said Tourtel,
defending the reputation of his native soil, " if once you gets
among de right class, among de people as has de time an de
money to make dereselves ill. But if you go foolin roun wid de
paysans, what can you expec ? We workin folks can t afford to
lay up an buy ourselves doctors stuff."
" And how am I to get among the right class ? " retorted Owen,
sucking the ends of his moustache into his mouth and chewing
them savagely. " A more confounded set of stuck-up, beggarly
By Ella D Arcy 53
aristocrats I never met than your people here." His discon
tented eye rested on Mrs. Tourtel. " That Mrs. Pedvinn is the
wife of Pedvinn the Jurat, I suppose?" "Yes, de Pedvinns
of Rohais." "Good people," said Owen thoughtfully ; in with
the de Caterelles, and the Dadderney (d Aldenois) set. Are
there children ? " " Tree."
He took a drink of the spirit and water ; his bad temper passed.
Margot came in from upstairs.
" De marster sleeps as dough he d never wake again," she
announced, flinging herself into the chair nearest Owen.
" It s bout time he did," Tourtel growled.
" I should have thought it more to your interest to keep him
alive ? " Owen inquired. " A good place, surely ? "
"A good place if you like to call it so," the wife answered him ;
" but what, if he go to town, as he say to-night ? and what, if he
send de notary, to put de scelles here ? den he take up again wid
Dr. Lclever, dat s certain." And Tourtel added in his surly key,
" Anyway, I ve been workin here dese tirty years now, an dat s
" In fact, when the orange is sucked, you throw away the peel ?
But are you quite sure it is sucked dry ? "
"De house an de Ian go to de Pedvinns, an all de money die
too, for de little he had left when young John went crost de seas,
he sunk in a nuity. Dere s nuddin but de lining, an plate, an
such like, as goes to de son."
" And what he finds of that, I expect, will scarcely add to his
impedimenta ? " said Owen grinning. He thought, " The old man
is well known in the island, the name of his medical attendant
would get mentioned in the papers at least ; just as well Le
Lievre should not have the advertisement." Besides, there were
54 Poor Cousin Louis
" You might say a good word for me to Mrs. Pedvinn," he
said aloud, " I live nearer to Rohais than Lelever does, and
with young children she might be glad to have some one at
" You may be sure you won t never find me ungrateful, sir,"
answered the housekeeper ; and Owen, shading his eyes with his
hand, sat pondering over the use of this word " ungrateful," with
its faint yet perceptible emphasis.
Margot, meanwhile, laid the supper ; the remains of a rabbit-
pie, a big "pinclos" or spider crab, with thin, red knotted legs,
spreading far over the edges of the dish, the apple-goche, hot from
the oven, cider, and the now half-empty bottle of brandy. The
lour sat down and fell to. Margot was in boisterous spirits ;
everything she said or did was meant to attract Owen s attention.
Her cheeks flamed with excitement ; she wanted his eyes to be
perpetually upon her. But Owen s interest in her had long
ceased. To-night, while eating heartily, he was absorbed in his
ruling passion : to get on in the world, to make money, to be
admitted into Island society. Behind the pallid, impenetrable
mask, which always enraged yet intimidated Margot, he plotted
incessantly, schemed, combined, weighed this and that, studied his
prospects from every point of view.
Supper over, he lighted his meerschaum ; Tourtel produced a
short clay, and the bottle was passed between them. The women
left them together, and for ten, twenty minutes, there was com
plete silence in the room. Tourtel let his pipe go out, and rapped
it down brusquely upon the table.
"It must come to an end," he said, with suppressed ferocity ;
" are we eider to spen de whole of our lives here, or else be turned
off at de eleventh hour after sufferin all de heat an burden of de
day ? Its onreasonable. An dere s de cottage at Cottu standin
By Ella D Arcy 55
empty, an me havin to pay a man to look after de tomato
houses, when I could get fifty per cent, more by look! n after dem
myself. .... An what profit is such a sickly, shiftless life as dat ?
My good ! dere s not a man, woman, or chile in de Islan s as will
shed a tear when he goes, an dere s some, 1 tells you, as have
suffered from his whimsies dese tirty years, as will rejoice. Why,
his wife was dead already when we come here, an his on y son, a
dirty, drunken, lazy vaurien too, has never been near him for
fifteen years, nor written neider. Dead most likely, in foreign
parts An what s he want to stay for, contraryin an thwartin
dem as have sweated an laboured, an now, please de good God,
wan s to sit neath de shadow of dere own fig-tree for de short
time dat remains to dem ? . . . . An what do we get for stayin ?
Forty pound, Island money, between de two of us, an de little I
makes from de flowers, an poultry, an such like. An what do
we do for it ? Bake, an wash, an clean, an cook, an keep de
garden in order, an nuss him in all his tantrums If we
was even on his testament, I d say nuddin. But everything
goes to Pedvinns, an de son John, and de little bit of income
dies wid him. I tell you tis bout time dis came to an end.
Owen recognised that Destiny asked no sin more heinous from
him than silence, perhaps concealment ; the chestnuts would
reach him without risk of burning his hand. "It s time," said he,
" I thought of going home. Get your lantern, and I ll help you
with the trap. But first, I ll just run up and have another look
at Mr. Rennuf."
For the last time the five personages of this obscure little tragedy
found themselves together in the bedroom, now lighted by a small
lamp which stood on the wash-hand-stand. Owen, who had
to stoop to enter the door, could have touched the low-pitched
ceiling with his hand. The bed, with its slender pillars, support
56 Poor Cousin Louis
ing a canopy of faded damask, took up the greater part of the
room. There was a fluted headpiece of the damask, and long
curtains of the same material, looped up, on either side of the
pillows. Sunken in these lay the head of the old man, crowned
with a cotton nightcap, the eyes closed, the skin drawn tight over
the skull, the outline of the attenuated form indistinguishable
beneath the clothes. The arms lay outside the counterpane,
straight down on either side ; and the mechanical playing move
ment of the fingers showed he was not asleep. Margot and Mrs.
Tourtcl watched him from the bed s foot. Their gigantic
shadows thrown forward by the lamp, stretched up the opposite
wall, and covered half the ceiling. The old-fashioned mahogany
furniture, with its fillets of paler wood, drawn in ovals, upon the
doors of the presses, their centrepieces of fruit and flowers,
shone out here and there with reflected light ; and the looking-
glass, swung on corkscrew mahogany pillars between the damask
window curtains, gleamed lake-like amidst the gloom.
Owen and Tourtel joined the women at the bedfoot ; though
each was absorbed entirely in his own egotisms, all were animated
by the same secret desire. Yet, to the feeling heart, there was
something unspeakably pleading in the sight of the old man
lying there, in his helplessness, in the very room, on the very bed,
which had seen his wedding-night fifty years before ; where as
a much-wished-for and welcomed infant, he had opened his eyes
to the light more than seventy years since. He had been helpless
then as now, but then the child had been held to loving hearts,
loving fingers had tended him, a young and loving mother lay
beside him, the circumference of all his tiny world, as he was the
core and centre of all of hers. And from being that exquisite,
well-beloved little child, he had passed thoughtlessly, hopefully,
despairfully, wearily, through all the stages of life, until he had
By Ella D Arcy 57
come to this a poor, old, feeble, helpless, worn-out man, lying
there where he had been born, but with all those who had loved
him carried long ago to the grave : with the few who might
have protected him still, his son, his cousin, his old friend Le
Lievre, as powerless to save him as the silent dead.
Renouf opened his eyes, looked in turn at the four faces before
him, and read as much pity in them as in masks of stone. He
turned himself to the pillow again and to his miserable thoughts.
Owen took out his watch, went round to count the pulse, and
in the hush the tick of the big silver timepiece could be heard.
" There is extreme weakness," came his quiet verdict.
"Sinking?" whispered Tourtel loudly.
" No ; care and constant nourishment are all that are required ;
strong beef-tea, port wine jelly, cream beaten up with a little
brandy at short intervals, every hour say. And of course no
excitement ; nothing to irritate, or alarm him " (Owen s eye
met Margot s) ; " absolute quiet and rest." He came back to the
foot of the bed and spoke in a lower tone. " It s just one of
the usual cases of senile decay," said he, " which I observe every
one comes to here in the Islands (unless he has previously killed
himself by drink), the results of breeding in. But Mr. Rennuf
may last months, years longer. In fact, if you follow out my
directions there is every probability that he will."
Tourtel and his wife shifted their gaze from Owen to look into
each other s eyes ; Margot s loose mouth lapsed into a smile.
Owen felt cold water running down his back. The atmosphere
of the room seemed to stifle him ; reminiscences of his student
days crowded on him : the horror of an unperverted mind, at its
first spectacle of cruelty, again seized hold of him, as though no
twelve callous years were wedged in between. At all costs he
must get out into the open air.
58 Poor Cousin Louis
He turned to go. Louis Renouf opened his eyes, followed the
form making its way to the door, and understood. " You won t
leave me, doctor ? surely you won t leave me ? " came the last
words of piercing entreaty.
The man felt his nerve going all to pieces.
"Come, come, my good sir, do you think I am going to stay
here all night ? " he answered brutally Outside the door,
Tourtel touched his sleeve. " And suppose your directions are
not carried out ? " said he in his thick whisper.
Owen gave no spoken answer, but Tourtel was satisfied.
" I ll come an put the horse in," he said, leading the way through
the kitchen to the stables. Owen drove off with a parting curse
and cut with the whip because the horse slipped upon the stones.
A long ray of light from Tourtel s lantern followed him down
the lane. When he turned out on to the high road to St. Gilles,
he reined in a moment, to look back at Les Calais. This is the
one point from which a portion of the house is visible, and he
could see the lighted window of the old man s bedroom plainly
through the trees.
What was happening there ? he asked himself; and the Tour
tel s cupidity and callousness, Margot s coarse cruel tricks, rose
before him with appalling distinctness. Yet the price was in his
hand, the first step of the ladder gained ; he saw himself to-morrow,
perhaps in the drawing-room of Rohais, paying the necessary visit
of intimation and condolence. He felt he had already won
Mrs. Poidevin s favour. Among women, always poor physiogno
mists, he knew he passed for a handsome man ; among the
Islanders, the assurance of his address would pass for good
breeding ; all he had lacked hitherto was the opportunity to
shine. This his acquaintance with Mrs. Poidevin would secure
him. And he had trampled on his conscience so often before, it
By Ella D Arcy 59
had now little elasticity left. Just an extra glass of brandy to
morrow, and to-day would be as securely laid as those other epi
sodes of his past.
While he watched, some one shifted the lamp .... a woman s
shadow was thrown upon the white blind .... it wavered,
grew monstrous, and spread, until the whole window was shrouded
in gloom Owen put the horse into a gallop .... and
from up at Les Calais, the long-drawn melancholy howling of
the dog filled with forebodings the silent night.
By A. S. Hartrick
The Composer of t Carmen
By Charles Willeby
WHAT little has been written about poor Bizet is not the
sort to satisfy. The men who have told of him cannot
have written with their best pen. Even those who, one can see,
have started well, albeit impelled rather than inspired by a profound
admiration for the artist and the man, have fallen all too short of
the mark, and ultimately drifted into the dullest of all dull things
the compilation of mere dates and doings. I know of no pamphlet
devoted to him in this country. He was much misunderstood
in life ; he has been, I think, as much sinned against in death.
The symbol of posthumous appreciation which asserts itself to the
visitor to Pere Lachaise, is exponential of compliment only when
reckoned by avoirdupois. Neglected in life, they have in death
weighed him down with an edifice that would have been obnoxious
to every instinct in his sprightly soul a memorial befitting per
haps to such an one as Johannes Brahms, but repugnant as a
memento of the spirit that created " Carmen." It is an emblem
of French formalism in its most determined aspect. And in
truth asSainte-Beuve said of the Abbe" Galiani " they owed to
him an honourable, choice, and purely delicate burial ; urna brevis,
a little urn which should not be larger than he." The previous
inappreciation of his genius has given place to posthumous lauda
64 The Composer of " Carmen
tion, zealous indeed, but so indiscriminating as to be vulgar. Like
many another man, he had to take " a thrashing from life " ; and
although he stood up to it unflinchingly, it was only in his death
certificate that he acquired passport to fame.
Just eighteen years before it was that Bizet had written from
Rome : " We are indeed sad, for there come to us the tidings of
the death of Ldon Benouville. Really, one works oneself half
crazy to gain this Prix de Rome ; then comes the huge struggle
for position ; and after all, perchance to end by dying at thirty-
eight ! Truly, the picture is the reverse of encouraging." Here
was his own destiny, nit comine la main, save that the fates be
grudged him even the thirty-eight years of his brother artist-
called him when he could not but
The petty done the undone vast."
But his early life was not unhappy. He had no pitiful struggle
with poverty in childhood, at all events. Some tell us he was pre
cocious terribly so ; but I had rather take my cue from his own
words, " Je ne me suis donndqu a contre-cceurala musique," than
dwell upon his precocity, real or fictional. It was only heredi
tarily consistent that he should have a musical organisation. His
father was a teacher of music, not without repute ; his mother
was a sister of Franfois Delsarte, who, although unknown to
Grove, has two columns and more devoted to him by Fetis, by
whom he is described as an "artiste un peu Strange, quoique d un
meVite incontestable, doud de faculty s tres diverses et de toutes les
qualitds necessaires a 1 enseignement." What there was of music in
their son the parents sought to encourage assiduously, and Bizet
himself has shown us in his work, more clearly than aught else
could, that the true dramatic sense was innate in him. And that
By Charles Willeby 65
he loved his literature too, was well proved by a glance at the
little appartement in the Rue de Douai, which he continued to
occupy until well-nigh the end.
In 1849 he was just over his tenth year Delsarte took him
to Marmontel of the Conservatoire. " Without being in any
sense of the word a prodigy," says the old pianoforte master, " he
played his Mozart with an unusual amount of taste. From the
moment I heard him I recognised his individuality, and I made it my
object to preserve it." Then Zimmerman, with whom Fenseigne-
ment was a disease, heard of him and sought him for pupil. But
Zimmerman seems to have tired of him as he tired of so many
and ended by passing him on to Gounod. From entry to exit
an interval of eight years Bizet s academic career was a series of
premiers et deuxiemes prix. They were to him but so many stepping-
stones to the coveted Grand Prix de Rome. He longed to secure
this to fly the crowded town and seek the secluded shelter of
the Villa Medici. And in the end he had his way. In effect, he
commenced to live only after he had taken up his abode on the
little Pincian Hill. Even there life was a trifle close to him, and
some time passed before he really fixed his focus.
In Italy, more than in any other part of the world, the life of
the present rests upon the strata of successive past lives. And
although Bizet was no student, carrying in his knapsack a super
fluity of culture, this place appealed to him from the moment that
he came to it, and the memory of it lingered long in after days.
The villa itself was a revelation to him. The masterpiece of
Renaissance facade over which the artist would seem to have
exhausted a veritable mine of Greek and Roman bas-reliefs ; the
garden with its lawns surrounded by hedges breast-high, trimmed
to the evenness of a stone-wall ; the green alleys overshadowed by
ilex trees ; the marble statues looking forlornly regretful at Time s
66 The Composer of " Carmen
defacing treatment ; the terrace with its oaks gnarled and twisted
with age ; the fountains ; the roses ; the flower-beds ; and in the
distance, " over the dumb Campagna-sea," the hills melting into
light under the evening sky all these made an intaglio upon him
such as was not readily to be effaced, and which he learned to love.
Perhaps because, after all, Italy is even more the land of beauty
than of what is venerable in art, he did not feel the want of what
Mr. Symonds calls the " mythopceic sense." It is a land ever
young, in spite of age. Its monuments, assertive as they are, so
blend with the landscape, are so in harmony with the surroundings,
that the yawning gulf of years that would separate us from them
is made to vanish, and they come to live with us.
And the place was teeming with tradition. From the time,
1540, when it had been designed by Hannibal Lippi for Cardinal
Ricci, passing thence into the hands of Alexandro de Medici,
and later into those of Leo XL, it had been the home of art ; and
then, on its acquisition by the French Academy in 1804, it be
came the home of artists. Here had lived and worked and dreamed
David, Ingres, Delaroche, Vernet, He rold, Benoist, Halevy,
Berlioz, Thomas, Gounod, and the minor host of them. In truth
the list awed Bizet not a little, and had he needed an incentive
here it was. For the rest, he was supremely content. As a pen-
sionnaire of the Academy he had two hundred francs a month, and
he apportioned them in this wise : Nourriture, 7$fr. ; vin y 25fr. ;
retenue, 25 fr. ; location de piano, I$h. ; blanchissage, 5fr. ; bois,
chandelles, timbre-poste, ffc., iofr. ; gants y 5fr. ; perte sur le change
de la monnaie^ 5fr. Even then he wrote : " I have more than
thirty francs pour fair e le grand garfon." In another letter he says :
" I seem to cling to Rome more than ever. The longer I know
it, the more I love it. Everything is so beautiful. Each street-
even the filthiest of them has its own charm for me. And perhaps
By Charles Willeby 67
what is most astonishing of all, is that those very things which
startled me most on my arrival, have now become a part of and
necessary to my very existence the madonnas with their little
lamps at every corner ; the linen hanging out to dry from the
windows ; the very refuse of the streets ; the beggars all these
things really divert me, and I should cry out if so much as a
dung-heap were removed More too, every day, do I pity
those imbeciles who have not been more fully able to appreciate
their good fortune in being pensionnaires of the Academy. But
then one cannot help observing that they are the very ones who
have achieved nothing. Halevy, Thomas, Gounod, Berlioz,
Massd they all loved and adored their Rome."
Then on the last day of the same year : "I seem to incline
more definitely towards the theatre, for I feel a certain sense of
drama, which, if I possessed it, I knew not of till now. So I
hope for the best. But that is not all. Hitherto I have vacillated
between Mozart and Beethoven, between Rossini and Meyerbeer,
and suddenly I know upon what, upon whom to fix my faith.
To me there are two distinct kinds of genius : the inspirational
and the purely rational, I mean the genius of nature and the
genius of erudition ; and whilst I have an immense admiration for
the second, I cannot deny that the first has all my sympathies.
So, man cher, I have the courage to prefer, and to say I prefer,
Raphael to Michael Angelo, Mozart to Beethoven, Rossini to
Meyerbeer, which is, I suppose, much the same as saying that if
I had heard Rubini I would have preferred him to Duprez. Do
not think for a moment that I place one above the other that
would be absurd. All I maintain is that the matter is one of
taste, and that the one exercises upon my nature a stronger
influence than does the other. When I hear the Symphonic
H6rol que, or the fourth act of the Huguenots, I am spell
68 The Composer of " Carmen >:
bound, aghast as it were ; I have not eyes, ears, intelligence,
enough even to admire. But when I see L Ecole D Athenes,
or La Vierge de Foligno, when I hear Les Noces de Figaro,
or the second act of Guillaume Tell, I am completely happy;
I experience a sense of comfort, a complete satisfaction : in effect,
I forget everything."
This, then, is what Rome did for Bizet ; hut, be it said, for
Bizet tres jeune encore. For a time the result is patent in his
work, but afterwards there comes, although no revulsion, a distinct
variation of feeling, which has in it something of compromise.
The genius innate in him was inspirational before it was if it
ever was erudite. Even in his later days there was for him no
cowering before his culture. In 1867 ne wr te in the Revue
Natlonale the only critique, by the way, he ever wrote under
the pseudonym of Gaston de Betzi : " The artist has no name,
no nationality. He is inspired or he is not. He has genius or he
has not. If he has, we welcome him ; if he has not, we can at
most respect him, if we do not pity and forget him."
He was the same in all things : " I have no comrades," he said,
"only friends." And there is one sentence that he wrote from
Rome that might well be held up to the gamins of the French
Conservatoire. " Je ne veux rien faire de chic ; je veux avoir des
idles avant de commencer un morceau."
In August of his second year Bizet left Rome on a visit to
Naples. He carried a letter to Mercadente. On his return good
news and bad awaited him. Ernest Guiraud, his good friend and
quondam fellow-student in the class of Marmontel, has just been
proclaimed Prix de Rome. And this at the very moment Bizet
was to leave the Villa ; for the Academy would have it that their
musical pensionnaires should pass the third year in Germany.
The prospect was entirely repugnant to Bizet. So he went to
By Charles Willeby 69
work against it, directing his energies in the first place against
Schnetz, " the dear old director " as they called him. Schnetz,
owning to a soft spot for his young pendonnaire, was overcome, and
through him I fancy the powers that were in Paris. However,
Bizet was permitted to remain in his beloved Rome. Delighted,
he wrote off to Marmontel : " I am daily expecting Guiraud, and
words cannot express how glad I shall be to see him. Would you
believe it, it is two years since I have spoken with an intelligent
musician ? My colleague Z bores me frightfully. He speaks
to me of Donizetti, of Fesca even, and I reply to him with
Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Gounod."
This last year spent with Guiraud was perhaps the happiest of
his life. At the close of it the two set off together on a ramble
through the land, with fancy for their only guide. They had got
so far as Venice when news of his mother s dangerous illness
called Bizet to her side. He arrived in time to say farewell, and
he never returned to Italy.
Of work done at the Villa, " Vasco de Gama" is the only
tangible sample ; " but I have not wasted my time," he wrote,
"I have read a good many volumes of history, and ever so much
more literature of all kinds. I have travelled, I have learned
something of the history of art, and I really am a bit of a
connoisseur in painting and sculpture. All I want now, on my
return, are trois jolts actes for the Theatre Lyrique."
And shortly we find him in full swing with " Les Pe"cheurs des
Perles." It was produced on the 30th September of 1863, and
had some eighteen representations. " La Jolie Fille de Perth,"
which followed it four years later, had, I think, twenty-one. In
between these two works, we are told, Bizet, in a fit of violent
admiration for Verdi, strove to emulate him in an opera entitled
"Ivan le Terrible." It is said to have been completed and
The Yellow Book Vol. II. E handed
70 The Composer of " Carmen
handed to the management of the Theatre Lyrique. Then
Bizet, recognising as suddenly that he had made a mistake, with
drew the score and burned it.
M. Charles Pigot, who is chiefly responsible for this story,
goes on to say that the libretto was the work of MM. Louis
Gallet and Edouard Blau. But in that he is not correct, for
Gallet himself tells us that he knew Bizet only ever so slightly at
the time, and that neither to him nor to Blau is due a single line
of this "Ivan."
Then there were " Griselidis," of which, in a letter dated
February of 1871, Bizet speaks as trh avancte; " Clarisse
Harlowe " ; and the " Calendal " of M. Sardou, to each of which
he referred in the same year as a pcine commence. There was also
an opera in one act written by M. Carvalho, and actually put
into rehearsal at the Opra Comique. But none of these saw the
light, and I have little doubt they all met their fate on a certain
eventful day, shortly before he died, when Bizet remorselessly
destroyed a whole pile of manuscript. And in truth these early
works had little value of themselves. They were but so many
rungs of the ladder by which he climbed to the heights of
" Djamileh," of " L Arle sienne," and of" Carmen." No musician
ever took longer to know himself than did Georges Bizet. His
period of hesitation, of vacillation, was unduly protracted. For
why, it is hard to tell ; but one cannot help feeling that the
terrible lutte pour la vie had a deal to do with it. Those early
years in Paris were very hard ones. " Believe me," he wrote from
le Vesinet (always a favourite spot with him), " believe me, it is
exasperating to have one s work interrupted for days to write
so/os de piston. But what would you ? I must live. I have just
rushed off at a gallop half-a-dozen melodies for Heugel. I trust
you may like them. At least I have carefully chosen the verses.
By Charles Willeby 71
.... My opera and my symphony are both of them en train. But
when, oh when, shall I finish them ? Yet I do nothing but work,
and I come only once a week to Paris. Here I am well out of
the way of all flaneurs, raseurs^ diseurs de riens, du monde en/in,
helas" Then a few days later : "I am completely prostrate with
fatigue. I can do nothing. I have even been obliged to give up
orchestrating my symphony ; and now I feel it will be too late for
this winter. I am going to lie down, for I have not slept for
three nights, and all seems so dark to me. To-morrow, too, I
have la musique gale to write."
Just then time was pressing him hard. He was under con
tract to produce " La Jolie Fille de Perth " by the end of the
year, and he was already well into October. It became a matter
of fifteen and sixteen hours work a day ; for there were lessons to
be given, proofs to be corrected, piano transcriptions to be made,
and the rest. And, truth to tell, he was terribly lacking in
method. He was choke-full of ideas, he was indeed borne along
by a very torrent of them ; and if only he could have stopped to
collect himself it would have been well for him. But no ; before
he realised it, " La Jolie Fille " was finished and in rehearsal.
Then for the time he was able to put enough distance between
himself and his work to value it. And it seems to have pleased
him. " The final rehearsal," he writes to Galabert (by this time
his confidant in most things), " has produced a great effect. The
piece is really highly interesting, the interpretation is excellent,
and the costumes are splendid. The scenery is new and the
orchestra and the artists are full of enthusiasm. But more than
all this, cher ami, the score of La Jolie Fille is une bonne chose.
The orchestra lends to all a colour and relief for which, I confess,
I never dared to hope. I think I have arrived this time. Now,
ilfaut monter, monter, monter, toujours."
72 The Composer of " Carmen "
Shortly after this he married Genevieve Halevy, the daughter of
the composer of " La Juive," and lived almost exclusively at le
Ve"sinet. There, at 8, Rue des Cultures, a rustic place enough?
one might find Georges Bizet, seated in his favourite corner of the
lovely garden, en chapeau de canotier, smoking his pipe and chatting
to his friends. It had been the home of Jacques HaleVy, and
Bizet had been wont to do his courting there. Now the old man
was no more, and in the long summer days, the daughter and the
son for Halevy had been as a father to Bizet missed sorely the
familiar figure hard at work with rake or hoe at his beloved flower
beds. They were the passion of his later days, and they well repaid
his care. Even in the middle of a lesson and he taught up to well-
nigh the last weeks of his life would he rush out to uproot a
noxious weed that might chance to catch his eye. " How well I
remember my first day there," says Louis Gallet. " The war
was not long finished, and the traces of it were with us yet.
True, Paris had resumed her lovely girdle of green ; but beneath
this verdure reflected in the tardy waters of the Seine, there was
enough still to tell the terrible tale of ruin. One could not go to
Pecq or le Vsinet without some difficulty. Bizet, to save me
trouble, had taken care to meet me at Rueil, whence we made for
the little place where he was staying for the summer. The day
was lovely, and Djamileh made great strides as we talked and
paced the pretty garden walks. This habit of discussing while
walking, what was uppermost in his mind, was always, to me, a
powerful characteristic of Georges Bizet. I do not remember
any important discussion between us that did not take place
during a stroll, or at all events whilst walking, if only to and from
his study. We talked long that afternoon of the influence of
Wagner on the future of musical art, of the reception in store for
Djamileh, both by the public and by the Ope"ra Comique itself.
By Charles Willeby 73
This latter, indeed, was no light matter. The Direction was
then undertaken by two parties : that of Du Locle, tending
towards advancement in every form ; that of De Leuven, clinging
with all the force of tradition to the past.
"Then in the evening nothing would do but Bizet should see
me well on my way to Paris. The bridges were not yet restored.
So we set off on foot, in company with Madame Bizet, to find
the ferry-boat. How delicious was that walk by the little islets in
the cool of the twilight ; along the towing-path so narrow and
overrun with growth that we were obliged to proceed in Indian
file. And how merry we were, until perchance we stumbled on
the fragment of a shell lying hidden in the grass, or came face to
face with some majestic tree, still smarting from its wounds,
when there would rise before us in all its vividness the terrible
scene so recently enacted on that spot. Then we talked of the
war and all its sorrows ; and we tried to descry there on the
right, in the shade of Mount Valerien, the spot where Henri
" At length we found the ferry, and reached the other bank.
There at the end of the path we could see the lights of the
station; so we separated. And although I made many after
visits, none remained so firmly fixed in my memory, or left me
so happy an impression as did this, my first to Bizet s summer
During the siege itself, he had been forced to remain in Paris.
But it was much against his will, and he seems to have chafed
sorely at it. Yet it is difficult to picture Bizet bellicose. "Dear
friend," he writes to Guiraud, who was stationed at some outpost,
" the description you give of the palace you are living in makes
us all believe that luck is with you. But every day we think of
the cold, the damp, the ice, the Prussians, and all the other
74 The Composer of " Carmen "
horrors that surround you. As for me, I continue to reproach
myself with my inaction, for in truth my conscience is anything
but at rest ; but you know well what keeps me here. We really
cannot be said to eat any longer. Suzanne has just brought in
some horse bones, which I believe are to form our meal. Gene-
vieve dreams nightly of chickens and lobsters."
Not till the following year, during the days of the Commune,
do we find him at le Vdsinet. Then he writes (also to Guiraud):
" Here we are without half our things, without our books, with
out anything in fact, and absolutely there are no means of getting
into Paris So, dear friend, if you have any news, do, I
pray you, let us have it. I read the Versailles papers, but they
tell their wretched readers (and expect them to believe it) that
France is trcs tranquille, Paris alone excepted (sic). The day
before yesterday was anything but tranquil. For twelve hours
there was nothing but a continuous cannonade But we
are safe enough, for although the Prussian patrols continue to
increase in number we are not inconvenienced by them, and they
will not, in all probability, occupy le Vdsinet. But it seems quite
impossible to say how all this is going to end. I am absolutely
discouraged, and what is more, I fear, dear friend, there is worse
trouble ahead of us. I am off now to the village to look at a
piano ; I must work and try to forget it all."
He finished "Djamileh" at le Vesinet. It was produced at the
Opdra Comique in May of 1872. Gallet tells us that he did not
write the book specially for Bizet. Under the title of " Na-
mouna," it had been given by M. du Locle to Jules Duprato, a
musician and a " prix de Rome." But Duprato paressait agre-
ablement, and never got much further with it than the compo
sition of a certain air de danse to the verses commencing :
" Indolente, grave et lente," which are to be found also in Bizet s
By Charles Willeby 75
score. Then there came a time when the Opera Comique, truly
one of the most good-natured of institutions in its own peculiar
way, so far belied its reputation as to tire of this idling on the
part of M. Duprato. So the work passed on to Bizet. He
suggested change of title, and " Namouna " became " Djamileh."
But it remained nevertheless the poem of Musset.
"Je vous dirais qu Hassan racheta Namouna
Qu on reconnut trop tard cette tete adoree
Et cette douce nuit qu elle avait espcree
Que pour prix de ses maux le ciel la lui donna.
Je vous dirais surtout qu Hassan dans cette affaire
Sentit que tot ou tard la femme avait son tour
Et que 1 amour de soi ne vaut pas 1 autre amour."
There you have the whole story. It is but an c tat fame a little
love scene, simple enough in a way, yet so delicate and so full of
colour. It was a matter of "atmosphere," not of structure, a
masterpiece of style rather than of situation ; and from its first
rehearsal as an opera it was doomed. In truth, these rehearsals
were amusing. There was old Avocat they used to call him
Victor the typical rlgisseur of tradition; a man who could tell
of the premises of " Pre-aux-Clercs " and " La Dame Blanche,"
and, what is more, expected to be asked to tell of them. From his
corner in the wings he listened to the music of this " Djamileh,"
his face expressive of a pity far too keen for words. But it was a
matter of minutes only before his pity turned to rage, and eventu
ally he stumped off to his sanctum, banging his door behind him
with a vehemence that augured badly for poor Bizet. As for
De Leuven, his co-director : had he not written " Postilion de
76 The Composer of " Carmen
Lonjumeau"? and was it not the most successful work of
Boiledieu s successor? The fact had altered his whole life.
Ever after, all he sought in opera was some similarity with
Le Postilion. And there was nothing of Adam in this music,
still less anything of De Leuven in the poem. That was sufficient
for him. "Allons," said he one day to Gallet, who arrived at
rehearsal just as Djamileh was about to sing her laments :
"aliens, vous arrivez pour le De Profundis."
As for the public, they understood it not at all, this charming
miniature. " C est indigne," cried one; " c est odieux," from
another; "c est tres drole," said a third. " Quelle cacophonie,
quelle audace, c est se moquer du monde. Voila, ou inene le culte
de Wagner a la folie. Ni tonalite, ni mesure, ni rythme ; ce
n est plus de la musique," and the rest. The press itself was
no better, no whit more rational. Yet this " Djamileh " was
rich in premonition of those very qualities that go to make
" Carmen " the immortal work it is. It so glows with true
Oriental colour, is so saturate with the true Eastern spirit, as to
make us wonder for the moment as did Mr. Henry James about
Theophile Gautier whether the natural attitude of the man was
not to recline in the perfumed dusk of a Turkish divan, puffing a
chibouque. Here the tints are stronger, mellower, and more
carefully laid on than in " Les Pecheurs des Perles." There is,
too, all the bizarrerie, as well as all the sensuousness of the East.
Yet there is no obliteration of the human element for sake of the
picturesque. Wagnerism was the cry raised against it on all
sides ; yet, if it be anything but Bizet, it is surely Schumann. It
was, in effect, all too good for the public too fine for their vulgar
gaze, their indiscriminating comment. And Reyer, farseeing
amongst his fellows, spoke truth when he said in the Debats :
" I feel sure that if M. Bizet knows that his work has been
By Charles Willeby 77
appreciated by a small number of musicians being cognoscenti
he will be more proud of that fact than he would be of a popular
success. Djamileh, whatever be its fortunes, heralds a new
epoch in the career of this young master."
Then came " L Arlesienne," as all the world knows, a dismal
failure enough. It was to Bizet a true labour of love. From the
day that Carvalho came to him proposing that he should add
des melodrames to this tale of fair Provence, to the day of its
production some four months later, he was absorbed in it. The
score as it now stands represents about half the music that he
wrote. The prelude to the third act of " Carmen," and the
chorus, " Quant aux douaniers," both belonged originally to
" L Arldsienne." The rest was blue pencilled at rehearsal. And
of all the care he lavished on it, perhaps the finest, certainly the
fondest, was given to his orchestra. Every instrument is minis
tered to with loving care. Luckily for him, fortunately too for
us, he knew not then what sort of lot awaited this scrupulous score
of his. He knew he wrote for Carvalho for the Vaudeville ; but
that was all. And they gave him twenty-five musicians a
couple of flutes and an oboe (this latter to do duty too for the
cor-anglais) ; one clarinet, a couple of bassoons, a saxophone, two
horns, a kettle-drum, seven violins, one solitary alto, five celli,
two bass, and his choice of one other. The poor fellow chose a
piano ; but they never saw the irony of it. All credit to his little
band, they did their best. But the most that they could do was to
cull the tunes from out his score. The consolation that we have
is, that, so far as the piece as a piece is concerned, no orchestra
in the world could have saved it. It was doomed to failure for all
sorts of reasons. Daudet himself goes very near the mark when
he says that " it was unreasonable to suppose that in the middle of
the boulevard, in that coquettish corner of the Chausee d Antin,
78 The Composer of " Carmen
right in the pathway of the fashions, the whims of the hour,
the flashing and changing vortex of all Paris, people could be
interested in this drama of love taking place in the farmyard in
the plain of Camargue, full of the odour of well-plenished granaries
and lavender in flower. It was a splendid failure ; clothed in the
prettiest music possible, with costumes of silk and velvet in the
centre of comic opera scenery." Then he goes on to tell us : " I
came away discouraged and sickened, the silly laughter with which
the emotional scenes were greeted still ringing in my ears ; and
without attempting to defend myself in the papers, where on all
sides the attack was led against this play, wanting in surprises
this painting in three acts of manners and events of which I alone
could appreciate the absolute fidelity. I resolved to write no
more plays, and heaped one upon the other all the hostile notices
as a rampart around my determination."
At this time Bizet seems to have come a good deal into contact
with Jean Baptiste Faure. They met frequently at the Opera.
" You really must do something more for Bizet," said the baritone
to Louis Gallet. " Put your heads together, you and Blau, and
write something that shall be blen pour moi" " Lorenzaccio,"
perhaps the strongest of De Musset s dramatic efforts, first came
up. But Faure was not at all in touch with it. The role of
Brutus fawning Judas that he is revolted him. He had no
fancy to distort as menteur a triple hage ; so the subject was put
by. Then came Bizet one morning with an old issue of Le
Journal pour tous in his pocket. " Here is the very thing for
us : Le Jeunesse du Cid of Guilhem de Castro ; not, mark
you, the Cid of Corneille alone, but the inceptive Cid in all the
glory of its pristine colour the Cid, Don Rodrigue de Bivar, in
the words of Sainte-Beuve the immortal flower of honour and of
love. The seine du mendiant held Bizet completely. It was to
By Charles Willeby 79
him simple, touching, and great. It showed Don Rodrigue in a
new light. Those and there were many of them who had
already cast their choice upon this legend, had recognised but
recognised merely in their hero, the son prepared to sacrifice his
love for filial duty, and to yield his life for love. But they had
not seen in him the Christian, the true and godly soul, the Good
Samaritan that De Castro represents. The scene of Rodrigue
with the leper, disdained and done away with by Corneille, with
which De Castro too was so reproached, was full of attraction for
Bizet. His whole interest centred round it. He was impatient
and hungered to get at it ; and " Carmen," on which he was
already well at work, was even laid aside the while. Faure, too,
had expressed a sound approval and a hearty interest, and this
alone meant much. So Bizet once again was full of hope.
There follows a long and detailed correspondence on the subject
with Gallet, with which I have not space to deal ; but it shows
up splendidly the extreme nicety of the musician s dramatic sense.
In the summer of 1873 "Don Rodrigue" was really finished,
and one evening Bizet called his friends to come and listen.
Around the piano were Edouard Blau, Louis Gallet, and Jean
Faure. Bizet had his score before him to common gaze a skeleton
thing enough, for of "accompaniment" there was but little. But
to its creator it was well alive, and he sang in the poorest possible
voice, it is true the whole thing through from beginning to end.
Chorus, soprano, tenor, bass, yea, even the choicer "bits" for
orchestra all came alike to him ; all were infused with life from
the spirit that created them. It was long past midnight when he
ceased, and then they sat and talked till dawn. All were en
thusiastic, and in the opinion of Faure (given three years later)
this score was more than the equal of " Carmen." His word is
all we have for it, but it carries with it something of conviction.
8o The Composer of " Carmen
He was no bad judge of a work. Anyway, no sooner had he
heard it than he set about securing its speedy production at the
Ope>a. And he succeeded in so far that it was put down early
on the list. But Fate had yet to be reckoned with. She was not
thus to be baulked of her prey : she had dogged the footsteps of
poor Bizet far too zealously for that ; and on the 28th October
(less than a week after he had put finh to his work), she stepped
in. On that day the Opera was burned down.
As for the score, it was laid aside, and of its ultimate lot we are
in ignorance. Inquiry on the part of Gallet seems to have
elicited nothing more definite than a courteous letter from M.
Ludovic Halevy, to the effect that he was quite free to dispose of
the book to another composer. " It was George s favourite,"
wrote his brother-in-law, " and he had great hopes for it ; but it
was not to be."
Perhaps of all his powers Bizet s greatest was that of recupera
tion. It would be wrong to say he did not know defeat; he
knew it all too well, but he never let it get the better of him.
He was never without his irons upon the fire, never without a
project to fall back upon. And perhaps it is not too much to say
that he had no life outside his art. This too may in truth be
told of him : that in all the struggle and the scramble, in all his
fight with fortune, it was the sweeter qualities of his nature that
came uppermost. His strength of purpose stood on a sound basis
a basis of confidence in, though not arrogance of, his own
power. Where he was most handicapped was in carrying on his
artistic progress coram papula. Had it been as gradual as most
men s had it been but the acquiring of an ordinary experience
all might have been well ; he would probably have been accorded
his niche and would have occupied it. But he progressed by
leaps and bounds, and even then his ideal kept steadily miles ahead
By Charles Willeby 81
of his achievement. It was for long a very will-o -the-wisp for
him. Now and again he caught it, and it is at such moments that
we have him at his best; but he can be said only to have captured
it completely so far as we are in a position to tell in
"L Arle sienne " and certain parts of "Carmen." His faculty
of self-criticism was developed in such an extraordinary degree
as to baulk him. He loved this Don Rodrigue and thought it
was his masterwork, and that too at the time when " Carmen "
must have been well forward. We know then that the loss is
not a small one.
It had not been alone the fate of the Ope"ra House that had stood
in the way. That institution had in course taken up its quarters
at the Salle Ventadour, and once installed there had proceeded
with the repertoire. But Bizet s "Rodrigue," although well
backed by Faure, was pushed aside for others. The three names
that it bore were all too impotent ; and when a new work was
announced, it was " L Esclave " of Membre that was seen to
grace the bills, and not " " Don Rodrigue."
Poor Bizet, disappointed and sore at heart, vanished to hide
himself once more by his beloved Seine. This time it was to
Bougival he went.
M. Massenet had recently produced his " Marie Madeleine "
and, curiously enough, it had been successful. This seems to have
spurred Bizet on to emulation. With his usual happy knack of
hitting on a subject, he wrote off to Gallet, requesting him to do
a book with Genevieve de Paris the holy Genevieve of legend
ary lore for heroine. And Gallet, accommodating creature that
he was, forthwith proceeded to construct his tableaux. Together
they went off to Lamoureux and read the synopsis to him. He
approved it heartily, and Bizet got to work. " Carmen " was
then finished and was undergoing the usual stage of adjournment
82 The Composer of " Carmen
sine die. Three times it had been put into rehearsal, only to be
withdrawn for apparently no reason, and poor Bizet was wearying
of opera and its ways. This sacred work was relief to him. But
hardly had he settled down to it when up came " Carmen " once
again, this time in good earnest. He was forced to leave
"Genevieve" and come to Paris for rehearsals. It was much
against his inclination that he did so, for his health was failing
fast. For long he had suffered from an abscess which had made
his life a burden to him. Nor had his terrible industry been
without its effect upon his physique. He did not know it, but
he had sacrificed to his work the very things he had worked for.
He felt exhausted, enfeebled, shattered. Probably the excitement
of rehearsing " Carmen " kept him up the while; but it had its
after-effect, and the strain proved all the more disastrous. A
profound melancholy, too, had come over him ; and do what he
would he could not beat it off. A young singer (some aspirant
for lyric fame) came one day to sing to him. " Ich grolle
nicht " and " Aus der Heimath " were chosen. " Quel chef-
d ceuvre," said he, " mais quelle desolation, c est a vous donner
la nostalgic de la mort." Then he sat down to the piano and
played the " Marche Funebre " of Chopin. That was the frame
of mind he was in.
In his gayer moments he would often long for Italy. He had
never forgotten the happy days passed there with Guiraud. " I
dreamed last night " (he is writing to Guiraud) " that we were all
at Naples, installed in a most lovely villa, and living under a
government purely artistic. The Senate was made up by Beet
hoven, Michael Angelo, Shakespeare, Giorgione, e tutti quanti.
The National Guard was no more. In place of it there was a
huge orchestra of which Litolff was the conductor. All suffrage
was denied to idiots, humbugs, schemers, and ignoramuses that
By Charles Willeby 83
is to say, suffrage was cut down to the smallest proportions
imaginable. Genevieve was a little too amiable for Goethe, but
despite this trifling circumstance the awakening was terribly
" Carmen " was produced at last, on the 3rd of March in that
year (1875). The Habanera of which, by the way, he wrote
for Mme. Galli-Mari no less than thirteen versions before he
came across, in an old book, the one we know the prelude to
the second act, the toreador song, and the quintett were encored.
The rest fell absolutely flat.
The blow was a terrific one to Bizet. He had dreamed of
such a different lot for " Carmen." Arm in arm with Guiraud
he left the theatre, and together they paced the streets of Paris
until dawn. Small wonder he felt bitter ; and in vain the kindly
Guiraud did his best to comfort him. Had not "Don Juan," he
argued, been accorded a reception no whit better when it was
produced in Vienna ? and had not poor Mozart said " I have
written Don Juan for myself and two of my friends " ? But he
found no consolation in the fact. The press, too, cut him to the
quick. This " Carmen," said they, was immoral, banale ; it was
all head and no heart ; the composer had made up his mind to
show how learned he was, with the result that he was only dull
and obscure. Then again, the gipsy girl whose liaisons formed
the subject of the story was at best an odious creature ; the
actress s gestures were the very incarnation of vice, there was
something licentious even in the tones of her voice ; the composer
evidently belonged to the school of civet sans /ievre; there was
no unity of style ; it was not dramatic, and could never live ; in a
word, there was no health in it.
Even Du Locle who of all men should have supported it
played him false. A minister of the Government wrote personally
84 The Composer of " Carmen
to the director for a box for his family. Du Locle replied with
an invitation to the rehearsal, adding that he had rather that the
minister came himself before he brought his daughters.
Prostrate with it all, poor Bizet returned to Bougival. When
forced to give up " Genevieve," he had written to Gallet : " I
shall give the whole of May, June, and July to it." And now
May was already come, and he was in his bed. " Angine colos-
sale," were the words he sent to Guiraud, who was to have been
with him the following Sunday. " Do not come as we arranged ;
imagine, if you can, a double pedal, A flat, E flat, straight through
your head from left to right. This is how I am just now."
He never wrote more than a few pages of " Genevieve." He
got worse and worse. But even so, the end came all too suddenly,
and on the night of the 2nd of June he died died as nearly as
possible at the exact moment when Galli-Marie" at the OpeYa
Comique was singing her song of fate in the card scene of the
third act of his "Carmen." The coincidence was true enough.
That night it was with difficulty that she sung her song. Her
nervousness, from some cause or another, was so great that it was
with the utmost effort she pronounced the words : " La carte
impitoyable ; rptera la mort ; encor, toujours la mort." On
finishing the scene, she fainted at the wings. Next morning
came the news of Bizet s death. And some friends said because
it was not meet for them to see the body that the poor fellow
had killed himself. Small wonder if it were so !
By Aubrey Beardsley
I. II. III. The Comedy-Ballet of Marionnettes,
as performed by the troupe of the Th6atre-
Impossible, posed in three drawings
IV. Gardens de Caf
V. The Slippers of Cinderella
For you must have all heard of the Princess Cinderella
with her slim feet and shining slippers. She "was beloved
iy Prince ****** j w /f a married her, but she died soon
after-wards, poisoned (according to Dr. Gerscho-vius) by
her elder sister Arabella, "with powdered glass. It ivai
ground I suspect from those -very slifpers she danced in at
the famous ball. For the slippers of Cinderella have ne-ver
teen found since. They are not at Cluny.
VI. Portrait of Madame Re"jane
The Yellow Book Vol. II.
Thirty Bob a Week
By John Davidson
I COULDN T touch a stop and turn a screw,
And set the blooming world a-work for me,
Like such as cut their teeth I hope, like you
On the handle of a skeleton gold key.
I cut mine on leek, which I eat it every week :
I m a clerk at thirty bob, as you can see.
But I don t allow it s luck and all a toss ;
There s no such thing as being starred and crossed ;
It s just the power of some to be a boss,
And the bally power of others to be bossed :
I face the music, sir ; you bet I ain t a cur !
Strike me lucky if I don t believe I m lost !
For like a mole I journey in the dark,
A-travelling along the underground
From my Pillar d Halls and broad suburban Park
To come the daily dull official round ;
And home again at night with my pipe all alight
A-scheming how to count ten bob a pound.
ioo Thirty Bob a Week
And it s often very cold and very wet ;
And my missis stitches towels for a hunks ;
And the Pillar d Halls is half of it to let
Three rooms about the size of travelling trunks.
And we cough, the wife and I, to dislocate a sigh,
When the noisy little kids are in their bunks.
But you ll never hear her do a growl, or whine,
For she s made of flint and roses very odd ;
And I ve got to cut my meaning rather fine
Or I d blubber, for I m made of greens and sod :
So p rhaps we are in hell for all that I can tell,
And lost and damned and served up hot to God.
I ain t blaspheming, Mr. Silvertongue ;
I m saying things a bit beyond your art :
Of all the rummy starts you ever sprung
Thirty bob a week s the rummiest start !
With your science and your books and your the ries about
Did you ever hear of looking in your heart ?
I didn t mean your pocket, Mr. ; no !
I mean that having children and a wife
With thirty bob on which to come and go
Isn t dancing to the tabor and the fife ;
When it doesn t make you drink, by Heaven, it makes you
And notice curious items about life !
I step into my heart and there I meet
A god-almighty devil singing small,
By John Davidson lor
Who would like to shout and whistle in the street,
And squelch the passers flat against the wall ;
If the whole world was a cake he had the power to take,
He would take it, ask for more, and eat it all.
And I meet a sort of simpleton beside
The kind that life is always giving beans ;
With thirty bob a week to keep a bride
He fell in love and married in his teens ;
At thirty bob he stuck, but he knows it isn t luck ;
He knows the seas are deeper than tureens.
And the god-almighty devil and the fool
That meet me in the High Street on the strike,
When I walk about my heart a-gathering wool,
Are my good and evil angels if you like ;
And both of them together in every kind of weather
Ride me like a double-seated " bike."
That s rough a bit and needs its meaning curled ;
But I have a high old hot un in my mind,
A most engrugious notion of the world
That leaves your lightning rithmetic behind :
I give it at a glance when I say " There ain t no chance,
Nor nothing of the lucky-lottery kind."
And it s this way that I make it out to be :
No fathers, mothers, countries, climates none !-
Not Adam was responsible for me ;
Nor society, nor systems, nary one !
A little sleeping seed, I woke I did indeed
A million years before the blooming sun.
102 Thirty Bob a Week
I woke because I thought the time had come ;
Beyond my will there was no other cause :
And everywhere I found myself at home
Because I chose to be the thing I was ;
And in whatever shape, of mollusc, or of ape,
I always went according to the laws.
/ was the love that chose my mother out ;
/ joined two lives and from the union burst ;
My weakness and my strength without a doubt
Are mine alone for ever from the first.
It s just the very same with a difference in the name
As "Thy will be done." You say it if you durst !
They say it daily up and down the land
As easy as you take a drink, it s true ;
But the difficultest go to understand,
And the difficultest job a man can do,
Is to come it brave and meek with thirty bob a week,
And feel that that s the proper thing for you.
It s a naked child against a hungry wolf;
It s playing bowls upon a splitting wreck ;
It s walking on a string across a gulf
With millstones fore-and-aft about your neck :
But the thing is daily done by many and many a one.
And we fall, face forward, fighting, on the deck.
By Henry Harland
IT has been an episode like a German sentence, with its pre
dicate at the end. Trifling incidents occurred at haphazard,
as it seemed, and I never guessed they were by way of making
sense. Then, this morning, somewhat of the suddenest, came the
verb and the full stop.
Yesterday I should have said there was nothing to tell ; to-day
there is too much. The announcement of his death has caused
me to review our relations, with the result of discovering my own
part to have been that of an accessory before the fact. I did not
kill him (though, even there, I m not sure I didn t lend a hand),
but I might have saved his life. It is certain that he made me
signals of distress faint, shy, tentative, but unmistakable and
that I pretended not to understand : just barely dipped my colours,
and kept my course. Oh, if I had dreamed that his distress was
extreme that he was on the point of foundering and going down !
However, that doesn t exonerate me : I ought to have turned aside
to find out. It was a case of criminal negligence. That he, poor
man, probably never blamed me, only adds to the burden on my
conscience. He had got past blaming people, I dare say, and
doubtless merely lumped me with the rest with the sum-total of
things that made life unsupportable. Yet, for a moment, when
104 A Responsibility
we first met, his face showed a distinct glimmering of hope ; so
perhaps there was a distinct disappointment. He must have had
so many disappointments, before it came to what it came to ; but
it wouldn t have come to that if he had got hardened to them.
Possibly they had lost their outlines, and merged into one dull
general disappointment that was too hard to bear. I wonder
whether the Priest and the Levite were smitten with remorse
after they had passed on. Unfortunately, in this instance, no
Good Samaritan followed.
The bottom of our long table d hote was held by a Frenchman,
a Normand, a giant, but a pallid and rather flabby giant, whose
name, if he had another than Monsieur, I never heard. He pro
fessed to be a painter, used to sketch birds and profiles on the back
of his menu-card between the courses, wore shamelessly the multi
coloured rosette of a foreign order in his buttonhole, and talked
with a good deal of physiognomy. I had the corner seat at his
right, and was flanked in turn by Miss Etta J. Hicks, a bouncing
young person from Chicago, beyond whom, like rabbits in a
company of foxes, cowered Mr. and Mrs. Jordan P. Hicks, two
broken-spirited American parents. At Monsieur s left, and facing
me, sat Colonel Escott, very red and cheerful ; then a young man
who called the Colonel Cornel, and came from Dublin, proclaiming
himself a barr ster, and giving his name as Flarty, though on his
card it was written Flaherty ; and then Sir Richard Maistre.
After him, a diminishing perspective of busy diners for purposes
of conversation, so far as we were concerned, inhabitants of the
Of our immediate constellation Sir Richard Maistre was the
only member on whom the eye was tempted to linger. The others
were obvious simple equations, soluble " in the head." But he
called for slate and pencil, offered materials for doubt and specula
By Henry Harland 105
tion, though it would not have been easy to tell wherein they lay.
What displayed itself to a cursory inspection was quite unremark
able : simply a decent-looking young Englishman, of medium
stature, with square-cut plain features, reddish-brown hair, grey
eyes, and clothes and manners of the usual pattern. Yet, showing
through this ordinary surface, there was something cryptic. For
me, at any rate, it required a constant effort not to stare at him. I
felt it from the beginning, and I felt it till the end : a teasing
curiosity, a sort of magnetism that drew my eyes in his direction.
I was always on my guard to resist it, and that was really the
inception of my neglect of him. From I don t know what stupid
motive of pride, I was anxious that he shouldn t discern the interest
he had excited in me ; so I paid less ostensible attention to him
than to the others, who excited none at all. I tried to appear
unconscious of him as a detached personality, to treat him as merely
a part of the group as a whole. Then I improved such occasions
as presented themselves to steal glances at him, to study him d la
dlrobee groping after the quality, whatever it was, that made him
a puzzle seeking to formulate, to classify him.
Already, at the end of my first dinner, he had singled himself
out and left an impression. I went into the smoking-room, and
began to wonder, over a cup of coffee and a cigarette, who he was.
I had not heard his voice ; he hadn t talked much, and his few
observations had been murmured into the ears of his next neigh
bours. All the same, he had left an impression, and I found
myself wondering who he was, the young man with the square-cut
features and the reddish-brown hair. I have said that his features
were square-cut and plain, but they were small and carefully
finished, and as far as possible from being common. And his
grey eyes, though not conspicuous for size or beauty, had a
character, an expression. They said something, something I
106 A Responsibility
couldn t perfectly translate, something shrewd, humorous, even
perhaps a little caustic, and yet sad ; not violently, not rebelliously
sad (I should never have dreamed that it was a sadness which
would drive him to desperate remedies), but rather resignedly,
submissively sad, as if he had made up his mind to put the best
face on a sorry business. This was carried out by a certain
abruptness, a slight lack of suavity, in his movements, in his
manner of turning his head, of using his hands. It hinted a
degree of determination which, in the circumstances, seemed
superfluous. He had unfolded his napkin and attacked his dinner
with an air of resolution, like a man with a task before him, who
mutters, "Well, it s got to be done, and I ll do it." At a hazard,
he was two- or three-and-thirty, but below his neck he looked
older. He was dressed like everybody, but his costume had,
somehow, an effect of soberness beyond his years. It was
decidedly not smart, and smartness was the dominant note at the
Hotel d Angleterre.
I was still more or less vaguely ruminating him, in a corner of
the smoking-room, on that first evening, when I became aware
that he was standing near me. As I looked up, our eyes met, and
for the fraction of a second fixed each other. It was barely the
fraction of a second, but it was time enough for the transmission
of a message. I knew as certainly as if he had said so that he
wanted to speak, to break the ice, to scrape an acquaintance ; I
knew that he had approached me and "was loitering in my neigh
bourhood for that specific purpose. I dont know, I have studied
the psychology of the moment in vain to understand, why I felt a
perverse impulse to put him off. I was interested in him, I was
curious about him ; and there he stood, testifying that the interest
was reciprocal, ready to make the advances, only waiting for a
glance or a motion of encouragement ; and I deliberately secluded
By Henry Harland 107
myself behind my coffee-cup and my cigarette smoke. I suppose
it was the working of some obscure mannish vanity of what in a
woman would have defined itself as coyness and coquetry. If he
wanted to speak well, let him speak ; I wouldn t help him. I
could realise the processes of his mind even more clearly than
those of my own his desire, his hesitancy. He was too timid to
leap the barriers ; I must open a gate for him. He hovered near
me for a minute longer, and then drifted away. I felt his dis
appointment, his spiritual shrug of the shoulders ; and I perceived
rather suddenly that I was disappointed myself. I must have
been hoping all along that he would speak quand meme, and now I
was moved to run after him, to call him back. That, however,
would imply a consciouness of guilt, an admission that my
attitude had been intentional ; so I kept my seat, making a mental
rendezvous with him for the morrow.
Between my Irish vis-a-vis Flaherty and myself there existed
no such strain. He presently sauntered up to me, and dropped
into conversation as easily as if we had been old friends.
Well, and are you here for your health or your entertain
ment ? " he began. " But I don t need to ask that of a man who s
drinking black coffee and smoking tobacco at this hour of the
night. I m the only invalid at our end of the table, and I m no
better than an amateur meself. It s a barrister s throat I have I
caught it waiting for briefs in me chambers at Doblin."
We chatted together for a half-hour or so, and before we parted
he had given me a good deal of general information about the
town, the natives, the visitors, the sands, the golf-links, the
hunting, and, with the rest, about our neighbours at table.
"Did ye notice the pink-faced bald little man at me right ?
That s Cornel Escott, C.B., retired. He takes a sea-bath every
morning, to live up to the letters ; and faith, it s an act of
io8 A Responsibility
heroism, no less, in weather the like of this. Three weeks have I
been here, and but wan day of sunshine, and the mercury never
above fifty. The other fellow, him at me left, is what you d be
slow to suspect by the look of him, I ll go bail ; and that s a
bar net, Sir Richard Maistre, with a place in Hampshire, and ten
thousand a year if he s a penny. The young lady beside yourself
rejoices in the euphonious name of Hicks, and trains her Popper
and Mommer behind her like slaves in a Roman triumph.
They re Americans, if you must have the truth, though I oughtn t
to tell it on them, for I m an Irishman myself, and its not for the
pot to be bearing tales of the kettle. However, their tongues
bewray them ; so I ve violated no confidence."
The knowledge that my young man was a baronet with a place
in Hampshire somewhat disenchanted me. A baronet with a
place in Hampshire left too little to the imagination. The de
scription seemed to curtail his potentialities, to prescribe his orbit,
to connote turnip-fields, house-parties, and a whole system of
British commonplace. Yet, when, the next day at luncheon, I
again had him before me in the flesh, my interest revived. Its
lapse had been due to an association of ideas which I now recog
nised as unscientific. A baronet with twenty places in Hampshire
would remain at the end of them all a human being ; and no
human being could be finished off in a formula of half a dozen
words. Sir Richard Maistre, anyhow, couldn t be. He was
enigmatic, and his effect upon me was enigmatic too. Why did
I feel that tantalising inclination to stare at him, coupled with
that reluctance frankly to engage in talk with him ? Why did he
attack his luncheon with that appearance of grim resolution ? For
a minute, after he had taken his seat, he eyed his knife, fork, and
napkin, as a labourer might a load that he had to lift, measuring
the difficulties he must cope with ; then he gave his head a
By Henry Harland 109
resolute nod, and set to work. To-day, as yesterday, he said very
little, murmured an occasional remark into the ear of Flaherty,
accompanying it usually with a sudden short smile : but he listened
to everything, and did so with apparent appreciation.
Our proceedings were opened by Miss Hicks, who asked
Colonel Escott, " Well, Colonel, have you had your bath this
morning ? "
The Colonel chuckled, and answered, "Oh, yes yes, yes
couldn t forego my bath, you know couldn t possibly forego my
" And what was the temperature of the water f " she continued.
" Fifty-two fifty-two three degrees warmer than the air
three degrees," responded the Colonel, still chuckling, as if the
whole affair had been extremely funny.
" And you, Mr. Flaherty, I suppose you ve been to Bayonne ? "
" No, I ve broken me habit, and not left the hotel."
Subsequent experience taught me that these were conventional
modes by which the conversation was launched every day, like the
preliminary moves in chess. We had another ritual for dinner :
Miss Hicks then inquired if the Colonel had taken his ride, and
Flaherty played his game of golf. The next inevitable step was
common to both meals. Colonel Escott would pour himself a
glass of the vin ordinaire^ a jug of which was set by every plate, and
holding it up to the light, exclaim with simulated gusto, "Ah !
Fine old wine ! Remarkably full rich flavour ! " At this
pleasantry we would all gently laugh ; and the word was free.
Sir Richard, as I have said, appeared to be an attentive and
appreciative listener, not above smiling at our mildest sallies ; but
watching him out of the corner of an eye, I noticed that my own
observations seemed to strike him with peculiar force which led
me to talk at him. Why not to him, with him ? The interest
i io A Responsibility
was reciprocal ; he would have liked a dialogue ; he would have
welcomed a chance to commence one ; and I could at any instant
have given him such a chance. I talked at him, it is true ; but I
talked with Flaherty or Miss Hicks, or to the company at large.
Of his separate identity he had no reason to believe me conscious.
From a mixture of motives, in which I m not sure that a certain
heathenish enjoyment of his embarrassment didn t count for some
thing, I was determined that if he wanted to know me he must
come the whole distance ; I wouldn t meet him half-way. Ot
course I had no idea that it could be a matter of the faintest real
importance to the man. I judged his feelings by my own ; and
though I was interested in him, I shall have conveyed an altogether
exaggerated notion of my interest if you fancy it kept me awake
at night. How was I to guess that his case was more serious
that he was not simply desirous of a little amusing talk, but
starving, starving for a little human sympathy, a little brotherly
love and comradeship ? that he was in an abnormally sensitive
condition of mind, where mere-negative unresponsiveness could
hurt him like a slight or a rebuff?
In the course of the week I ran over to Pau, to pass a day with
the Winchfields, who had a villa there. When I came back I
brought with me all that they (who knew everybody) could tell
about Sir Richard Maistre. He was intelligent and amiable, but
the shyest of shy men. He avoided general society, frightened
away perhaps by the British Mamma, and spent a good part of
each year abroad, wandering rather listlessly from town to town.
Though young and rich, he was neither fast nor ambitious : the
Members entrance to the House of Commons, the stage-doors of
the music halls, were equally without glamour for him ; and if he
was a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy L ieutenant, he had become
so through the tacit operation of his stake in the country. He
By Henry Harland 1 1 1
had chambers in St. James s Street, was a member of the
Travellers Club, and played the violin for an amateur rather
well. His brother, Mortimer Maistre, was in diplomacy at Rio
Janeiro or somewhere. His sister had married an Australian, and
lived in Melbourne.
At the Hotel d Angleterre I found his shyness was mistaken for
indifference. He was civil to everybody, but intimate with none.
He attached himself to no party, paired off with no individuals.
He sought nobody. On the other hand, the persons who went
out of their way to seek him, came back, as they felt, repulsed.
He had been polite but languid. These, however, were not the
sort of persons he would be likely to care for. There prevailed a
general conception of him as cold, unsociable. He certainly
walked about a good deal alone you met him on the sands, on the
cliffs, in the stiff little streets, rambling aimlessly, seldom with a
companion. But to me it was patent that he played the solitary
from necessity, not from choice from the necessity of his tem
perament. A companion was precisely that which above all
things his heart coveted ; only he didn t know how to set about
annexing one. If he sought nobody, it was because he didn t
know how. This was a part of what his eyes said ; they bespoke
his desire, his perplexity, his lack of nerve. Of the people who
put themselves out to seek him, there was Miss Hicks ; there
were a family from Leeds, named Bunn, a father, mother, son,
and two redoubtable daughters, who drank champagne with every
meal, dressed in the height of fashion, said their say at the tops of
their voices, and were understood to be auctioneers ; a family
from Bayswater named Krausskopf. I was among those whom
he had marked as men he would like to fraternise with. As often
as our paths crossed, his eyes told me that he longed to stop and
speak, and continue the promenade abreast. I was under the
H2 A Responsibility
control of a demon of mischief; I took a malicious pleasure
in eluding and baffling him in passing on with a nod. It had
become a kind of game ; I was curious to see whether he would
ever develop sufficient hardihood to take the bull by the horns.
After all, from a conventional point of view, my conduct was
quite justifiable. I always meant to do better by him next time,
and then I always deferred it to the next. But from a con
ventional point of view my conduct was quite unassailable. I said
this to myself when I had momentary qualms of conscience. Now,
rather late in the day, it strikes me that the conventional point of
view should have been re-adjusted to the special case. I should
have allowed for his personal equation.
My cousin Wilford came to Biarritz about this time, stopping
for a week, on his way home from a tour in Spain. I couldn t
find a room for him at the Hotel d Angleterre, so he put up at
a rival hostelry over the way ; but he dined with me on the
evening of his arrival, a place being made for him between mine
and Monsieur s. He hadn t been at the table five minutes before
the rumour went abroad who he was somebody had recognised
him. Then those who were within reach of his voice listened
with all their ears Colonel Escott, Flaherty, Maistre, and Miss
Hicks, of course, who even called him by name : " Oh, Mr.
Wilford." "Now, Mr. Wilford," &c. After dinner, in the
smoking-room, a cluster of people hung round us; men with
whom I had no acquaintance came merrily up and asked to be
introduced. Colonel Escott and Flaherty joined us. At the
outskirts of the group I beheld Sir Richard Maistre. His eyes
(without his realising it perhaps) begged me to invite him, to
present him, and I affected not to understand ! This is one of
the little things I find hardest to forgive myself. My whole
behaviour towards the young man is now a subject of self-
By Henry Harland 113
reproach : if it had been different, who knows that the tragedy of
yesterday would ever have happened ? If I had answered his
timid overtures, walked with him, talked with him, cultivated his
friendship, given him mine, established a kindly human relation
with him, I can t help feeling that he might not have got to such
a desperate pass, that I might have cheered him, helped him, saved
him. I feel it especially when I think of Wilford. His eyes
attested so much ; he would have enjoyed meeting him so keenly.
No doubt he was already fond of the man, had loved him through
his books, like so many others. If I had introduced him ? If we
had taken him with us the next morning, on our excursion to
Cambo ? Included him occasionally in our smokes and parleys ?
Wilford left for England without dining again at the Hotel
d Angleterre. We were busy "doing" the country, and never
chanced to be at Biarritz at the dinner-hour. During that week
I scarcely saw Sir Richard Maistre.
Another little circumstance that rankles especially now would
have been ridiculous, except for the way things have ended. It
isn t easy to tell it was so petty, and I am so ashamed. Colonel
Escott had been abusing London, describing it as the least
beautiful of the capitals of Europe, comparing it unfavourably to
Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. I took up the cudgels in its
defence, mentioned its atmosphere, its tone ; Paris, Vienna, St.
Petersburg were lyric, London was epic ; and so forth and so
forth. Then, shifting from the aesthetic to the utilitarian, I
argued that of all great towns it was the healthiest, its death-rate
was lowest. Sir Richard Maistre had followed my dissertation
attentively, and with a countenance that signified approval ; and
when, with my reference to the death-rate, I paused, he suddenly
burned his ships. He looked me full in the eye, and said,
"Thirty-seven, I believe?" His heightened colour, a nervous
The Yellow Book Vol. II. G movement
ii4 A Responsibility
movement of the lip, betrayed the effort it had cost him ; but at
last he had done it screwed his courage to the sticking-place, and
spoken. And I I can never forget it I grow hot when I
think of it but I was possessed by a devil. His eyes hung on
my face, awaiting my response, pleading for a cue. " Go on,"
they urged. " I have taken the first, the difficult step make the
next smoother for me." And I I answered lackadaisically, with
just a casual glance at him, " I don t know the figures," and
absorbed myself in my viands.
Two or three days later his place was filled by a stranger, and
Flaherty told me that he had left for the Riviera.
All this happened last March at Biarritz. I never saw him
again till three weeks ago. It was one of those frightfully hot
afternoons in July ; I had come out of my club, and was walking
up St. James s Street, towards Piccadilly ; he was moving in an
opposite sense ; and thus we approached each other. He didn t
see me, however, till we had drawn rather near to a conjunction :
then he gave a little start of recognition, his eyes brightened, his
pace slackened, his right hand prepared to advance itself and I
bowed slightly, and pursued my way ! Don t ask why I did
it. It is enough to confess it, without having to explain it. I
glanced backwards, by and by, over my shoulder. He was stand
ing where I had met him, half turned round, and looking after
me. But when he saw that I was observing him, he hastily
shifted about, and continued his descent of the street.
That was only three weeks ago. Only three weeks ago I still
had it in my power to act. I am sure I don t know why I am
sure, but I am sure that I could have deterred him. For all
that one can gather from the brief note he left behind, it seems he
had no special, definite motive ; he had met with no losses, got
into no scrape ; he was simply tired and sick of life and of himself.
" I have
By Henry Harland 115
" I have no friends," he wrote. " Nobody will care. People
don t like me; people avoid me. I have wondered why ; I have
tried to watch myself", and discover; I have tried to be decent. I
suppose it must be that I emit a repellent fluid ; I suppose I am a
bad sort. He had a morbid notion that people didn t like him,
that people avoided him ! Oh, to be sure, there were the Bunns
and the Krausskopfs and their ilk, plentiful enough : but he under
stood what it was that attracted them. Other people, the people
he could have liked, kept their distance were civil, indeed, but
reserved. He wanted bread, and they gave him a stone. It never
struck him, I suppose, that they attributed the reserve to him.
But I I knew that his reserve was only an effect of his shyness ;
I knew that he wanted bread : and that knowledge constituted my
moral responsibility. I didn t know that his need was extreme ;
but I have tried in vain to absolve myself with the reflection. I
ought to have made inquiries. When I think of that afternoon
in St. James s Street only three weeks ago I feel like an
assassin. The vision of him, as he stopped and looked after me
I can t banish it. Why didn t some good spirit move me to turn
back and overtake him ?
It is so hard for the mind to reconcile itself to the irretrievable.
I can t shake off a sense that there is something to be done. I
can t realise that it is too late.
By Charlotte M. Mew
"Like souls that meeting pass,
And passing never meet again."
Cr those who have missed a romantic view of London in its
poorest quarters and there will romance be found wait
for a sunset in early winter. They may turn North or South,
towards Islington or Westminster, and encounter some fine
pictures and more than one aspect of unique beauty. This hour
of pink twilight has its monopoly of effects. Some of them may
never be reached again.
On such an evening in mid-December, I put down my sewing
and left tame glories of fire-light (discoverers of false charm) to
welcome, as youth may, the contrast of keen air outdoors to the
My aim was the perfection of a latent appetite, for I had no
mind to content myself with an apology for hunger, consequent
on a warmly passive afternoon.
The splendid cold of fierce frost set my spirit dancing. The
road rung hard underfoot, and through the lonely squares woke
sharp echoes from behind. This stinging air assailed my cheeks
with vigorous severity. It stirred my blood grandly, and brought
thought back to me from the warm embers just forsaken, with an
immeasurable sense of gain.
But after the first delirium of enchanting motion, destination
became a question. The dim trees behind the dingy enclosures
were beginning to be succeeded by rows of flaring gas jets, dis
playing shops of new aspect and evil smell. Then the heavy walls
of a partially demolished prison reared themselves darkly against
the pale sky.
By this landmark I recalled alas that it should be possible
a church in the district, newly built by an infallible architect,
which I had been directed to seek at leisure. I did so now. A
row of cramped houses, with the unpardonable bow window,
projecting squalor into prominence, came into view. Robbing
these even of light, the portentous walls stood a silent curse
before them. I think they were blasting the hopes of the
sad dwellers beneath them if hope they had to despair.
Through spattered panes faces of diseased and dirty children
leered into the street. One room, as I passed, seemed full of
them. The window was open ; their wails and maddening re
quirements sent out the mother s cry. It was thrown back to
her, mingled with her children s screams, from the pitiless prison
These shelters struck my thought as travesties perhaps they
were not of the grand place called home.
Leaving them I sought the essential of which they were bereft.
What withheld from them, as poverty and sin could not, a title
to the sacred name ?
An answer came, but interpretation was delayed. Theirs was
not the desolation of something lost, but of something that had
never been. I thrust off speculation gladly here, and fronted
By Charlotte M. Mew 123
Suddenly I emerged from the intolerable shadow of the brick
work, breathing easily once more. Before me lay a roomy space,
nearly square, bounded by three-storey dwellings, and transformed,
as if by quick mechanism, with colours of sunset. Red and
golden spots wavered in the panes of the low scattered houses
round the bewildering expanse. Overhead a faint crimson sky
was hung with violet clouds, obscured by the smoke and nearing
In the centre, but towards the left, stood an old stone pump,
and some few feet above it irregular lamps looked down. They
were planted on a square of paving railed in by broken iron fences,
whose paint, now discoloured, had once been white. Narrow
streets cut in five directions from the open roadway. Their lines
of light sank dimly into distance, mocking the stars entrance into
the fading sky. Everything was transfigured in the illuminated
twilight. As I stood, the dying sun caught the rough edges of a
girl s uncovered hair, and hung a faint nimbus round her poor
desecrated face. The soft circle, as she glanced toward me, lent
it the semblance of one of those mystically pictured faces of some
A stillness stole on, and about the square dim figures hurried
along, leaving me stationary in existence (I was thinking fanci
fully), when my mediaeval saint demanded " who I was a-shoving
of? " and dismissed me, not unkindly, on my way. Hawkers in a
neighbouring alley were calling, and the monotonous ting-ting of
the muffin-bell made an audible background to the picture. I
left it, and then the glamour was already passing. In a little
while darkness possessing it, the place would reassume its aspect of
There is a street not far from there, bearing a name that
quickens life within one, by the vision it summons of a most
peaceful country, where the broad roads are but pathways through
green meadows, and your footstep keeps the time to a gentle music
of pure streams. There the scent of roses, and the first pushing
buds of spring, mark the seasons, and the birds call out faithfully
the time and manner of the day. Here Easter is heralded by the
advent in some squalid mart of air-balls on Good Friday ; early
summer and late may be known by observation of that un-
romantic yet authentic calendar in which alley-tors, tip-cat,
whip- and peg-tops, hoops and suckers, in their courses mark the
flight of time.
Perhaps attracted by the incongruity, I took this way. In such
a thoroughfare it is remarkable that satisfied as are its public with
transient substitutes for literature, they require permanent types
(the term is so far misused it may hardly be further outraged) of
Art. Pictures, so-called, are the sole departure from necessity and
popular finery which the prominent wares display. The window
exhibiting these aspirations was scarcely more inviting than the
fishmonger s next door, but less odoriferous, and I stopped to see
what the ill-reflecting lights would show. There was a typical
selection. Prominently, a large chromo of a girl at prayer. Her
eyes turned upwards, presumably to heaven, left the gazer in no
state to dwell on the elaborately bared breasts below. These
might rival, does wax-work attempt such beauties, any similar
attraction of Marylebone s extensive show. This personification
of pseudo-purity was sensually diverting, and consequently market
My mind seized the ideal of such a picture, and turned from this
prostitution of it sickly away. Hurriedly I proceeded, and did
not stop again until I had passed the low gateway of the place I
Its forbidding exterior was hidden in the deep twilight and
By Charlotte M. Mew 125
invited no consideration. I entered and swung back the inner
door. It was papered with memorial cards, recommending to
mercy the unprotesting spirits of the dead. My prayers were re
quested for the " repose of the soul of the Architect of that
church, who passed away in the True Faith December, 1887."
Accepting the assertion, I counted him beyond them, and mentally
entrusted mine to the priest for those who were still groping for
it in the gloom.
Within the building, darkness again forbade examination. A
few lamps hanging before the altar struggled with obscurity.
I tried to identify some ugly details with the great man s com
placent eccentricity, and failing, turned toward the street again.
Nearly an hour s walk lay between me and my home. This fact
and the atmosphere of stuffy sanctity about the place, set me
longing for space again, and woke a fine scorn for aught but air
and sky. My appetite, too, was now an hour ahead of opportunity.
I sent back a final glance into the darkness as my hand prepared
to strike the door. There was no motion at the moment, and it
was silent ; but the magnetism of human presence reached me
where I stood. I hesitated, and in a few moments found what
sought me on a chair in the far corner, flung face downwards
across the seat. The attitude arrested me. I went forward. The
lines of the figure spoke unquestionable despair.
Does speech convey intensity of anguish ? Its supreme ex
pression is in form. Here was human agony set forth in meagre
lines, voiceless, but articulate to the soul. At first the forcible
portrayal of it assailed me with the importunate strength of beauty.
Then the Thing stretched there in the obdurate darkness grew
personal and banished delight. Neither sympathy nor its vulgar
substitute, curiosity, induced my action as I drew near. I was
eager indeed to be gone. I wanted to ignore the almost indis
tinguishable being. My will cried : Forsake it ! but I found
myself powerless to obey. Perhaps it would have conquered had
not the girl swiftly raised herself in quest of me. I stood still.
Her eyes met mine. A wildly tossed spirit looked from those ill-
lighted windows, beckoning me on. Mine pressed towards it, but
whether my limbs actually moved I do not know, for the
imperious summons robbed me of any consciousness save that of
necessity to comply.
Did she reach me, or was our advance mutual ? It cannot be
told. I suppose we neither know. But we met, and her hand,
grasping mine, imperatively dragged me into the cold and noisy
We went rapidly in and out of the flaring booths, hustling little
staggering children in our unpitying speed, I listening dreamily to
the concert of hoarse yells and haggling whines which struck
against the silence of our flight. On and on she took me,
breathless and without explanation. We said nothing. I had no
care or impulse to ask our goal. The fierce pressure of my hand
was not relaxed a breathing space ; it would have borne me against
resistance could I have offered any, but I was capable of none.
The streets seemed to rush past us, peopled with despair.
Weirdly lighted faces sent blank negations to a spirit of question
which finally began to stir in me. Here, I thought once vaguely,
was the everlasting No !
We must have journeyed thus for more than half an hour and
walked far. I did not detect it. In the eternity of supreme
moments time is not. Thought, too, fears to be obtrusive and
We gained a door at last, down some blind alley out of the
deafening thoroughfare. She threw herself against it and pulled me
up the unlighted stairs. They shook now and then with the
By Charlotte M. Mew 127
violence of our ascent ; with my free hand I tried to help myself
up by the broad and greasy balustrade. There was little sound in
the house. A light shone under the first door we passed, but all
was quietness within.
At the very top, from the dense blackness of the passage,
my guide thrust me suddenly into a dazzling room. My eyes
rejected its array of brilliant light. On a small chest of drawers
three candles were guttering, two more stood flaring in the high
window ledge, and a lamp upon a table by the bed rendered these
minor illuminations unnecessary by its diffusive glare. There
were even some small Christmas candles dropping coloured grease
down the wooden mantel-piece, and I noticed a fire had been
made, built entirely of wood. There were bits of an inlaid work-
box or desk, and a chair-rung, lying half burnt in the grate. Some
peremptory demand for light had been, these signs denoted
unscrupulously met. A woman lay upon the bed, half clothed,
asleep. As the door slammed behind me the flames wavered and
my companion released my hand. She stood beside me, shuddering
violently, but without utterance.
I looked around. Everywhere proofs of recent energy were
visible. The bright panes reflecting back the low burnt candles,
the wretched but shining furniture, and some odd bits of painted
china, set before the spluttering lights upon the drawers, bore
witness to a provincial intolerance of grime. The boards were
bare, and marks of extreme poverty distinguished the whole room.
The destitution of her surroundings accorded ill with the girl s
spotless person and well-tended hands, which were hanging
Subsequently I realised that these deserted beings must have
first fronted the world from a sumptuous stage. The details in
proof of it I need not cite. It must have been so.
1 28 Passed
My previous apathy gave place to an exaggerated observation.
Even some pieces of a torn letter, dropped off the quilt, I noticed,
were of fine texture, and inscribed by a man s hand. One fragment
bore an elaborate device in colours. It may have been a club crest
or coat-of-arms. I was trying to decide which, when the girl at
length gave a cry of exhaustion or relief, at the same time falling
into a similar attitude to that she had taken in the dim church.
Her entire frame became shaken with tearless agony or terror. It
was sickening to watch. She began partly to call or moan,
begging me, since I was beside her, wildly, and then with heart
breaking weariness, " to stop, to stay." She half rose and claimed
me with distracted grace. All her movements were noticeably
I pass no judgment on her features ; suffering for the time
assumed them, and they made no insistence of individual claim.
I tiied to raise her, and kneeling, pulled her reluctantly towards
me. The proximity was distasteful. An alien presence has ever
repelled me. I should have pitied the girl keenly perhaps a few
more feet away. She clung to me with ebbing force. Her heart
throbbed painfully close to mine, and when I meet now in the
dark streets others who have been robbed, as she has been, of their
great possession, I have to remember that.
The magnetism of our meeting was already passing ; and, reason
asserting itself, I reviewed the incident dispassionately, as she lay
like a broken piece of mechanism in my arms. Her dark hair
had come unfastened and fell about my shoulder. A faint white
streak of it stole through the brown. A gleam of moonlight
strays thus through a dusky room. I remember noticing, as it
was swept with her involuntary motions across my face, a faint
fragrance which kept recurring like a subtle and seductive sprite>
hiding itself with fairy cunning in the tangled maze.
By Charlotte M. Mew 129
The poor girl s mind was clearly travelling a devious way.
Broken and incoherent exclamations told of a recently wrung
promise, made to whom, or of what nature, it was not my business
to conjecture or inquire.
I record the passage of a few minutes. At the first opportunity
I sought the slumberer on the bed. She slept well : hers was
a long rest ; there might be no awakening from it, for she was
dead. Schooled in one short hour to all surprises, the knowledge
made me simply richer by a fact. Nothing about the sternly
set face invited horror. It had been, and was yet, a strong
and, if beauty be not confined to youth and colour, a beautiful
Perhaps this quiet sharer of the convulsively broken silence was
thirty years old. Death had set a firmness about the finely con
trolled features that might have shown her younger. The actual
years are of little matter ; existence, as we reckon time, must have
lasted long. It was not death, but life that had planted the look
of disillusion there. And romance being over, all good-byes to
youth are said. By the bedside, on a roughly constructed table,
was a dearly bought bunch of violets. They were set in a blue
bordered tea-cup, and hung over in wistful challenge of their own
diviner hue. They were foreign, and their scent probably
unnatural, but it stole very sweetly round the room. A book lay
face downwards beside them alas for parochial energies, not of
a religious type and the torn fragments of the destroyed letter
had fallen on the black binding.
A passionate movement of the girl s breast against mine directed
my glance elsewhere. She was shivering, and her arms about my
neck were stiffly cold. The possibility that she was starving
missed my mind. It would have found my heart. I wondered
if she slept, and dared not stir, though I was by this time cramped
and chilled. The vehemence of her agitation ended, she breathed
gently, and slipped finally to the floor.
I began to face the need of action and recalled the chances
of the night. When and how I might get home was a necessary
question, and I listened vainly for a friendly step outside. None
since we left it had climbed the last flight of stairs. I could hear
a momentary vibration of men s voices in the room below. Was
it possible to leave these suddenly discovered children of peace and
tumult ? Was it possible to stay ?
This was Saturday, and two days later I was bound for Scotland ;
a practical recollection of empty trunks was not lost in my survey
of the situation. Then how, if I decided not to forsake the poor
child, now certainly sleeping in my arms, were my anxious friends
to learn my whereabouts, and understand the eccentricity of the
scheme? Indisputably, I determined, something must be done for
the half-frantic wanderer who was pressing a tiring weight against
me. And there should be some kind hand to cover the cold limbs
and close the wide eyes of the breathless sleeper, waiting a comrade s
sanction to fitting rest.
Conclusion was hastening to impatient thought, when my eyes
let fall a fatal glance upon the dead girl s face. I do not think it
had changed its first aspect of dignified repose, and yet now it woke
in me a sensation of cold dread. The dark eyes unwillingly open
reached mine in an insistent stare. One hand lying out upon the
coverlid, I could never again mistake for that of temporarily
suspended life. My watch ticked loudly, but I dared not examine
it, nor could I wrench my sight from the figure on the bed. For
the first time the empty shell of being assailed my senses. I
watched feverishly, knowing well the madness of the action, for a
hint of breathing, almost stopping my own.
To-day, as memory summons it, I cannot dwell without
By Charlotte M. Mew 131
reluctance on this hour of my realisation of the thing called
A hundred fancies, clothed in mad intolerable terrors, possessed
me, and had not my lips refused it outlet, I should have set free a
cry, as the spent child beside me had doubtless longed to do, and
failed, ere, desperate, she fled.
My gaze was chained ; it could not get free. As the shapes of
monsters of ever varying and increasing dreadfulness flit through
one s dreams, the images of those I loved crept round me, with
stark yet well-known features, their limbs borrowing death s rigid
outline, as they mocked my recognition of them with soundless
semblances of mirth. They began to wind their arms about me
in fierce embraces of burning and supernatural life. Gradually
the contact froze. They bound me in an icy prison. Their hold
relaxed. These creatures of my heart were restless. The horribly
familiar company began to dance at intervals in and out a ring of
white gigantic bedsteads, set on end like tombstones, each of which
framed a huge and fearful travesty of the sad set face that was all
the while seeking vainly a pitiless stranger s care. They vanished.
My heart went home. The dear place was desolate. No echo
of its many voices on the threshold or stair. My footsteps made
no sound as I went rapidly up to a well-known room. Here I
besought the mirror for the reassurance of my own reflection. It
denied me human portraiture and threw back cold glare. As I
opened mechanically a treasured book, I noticed the leaves were
blank, not even blurred by spot or line ; and then I shivered it
was deadly cold. The fire that but an hour or two ago it seemed
I had forsaken for the winter twilight, glowed with slow derision
at my efforts to rekindle heat. My hands plunged savagely into
its red embers, but I drew them out quickly, unscathed and clean.
The things by which I had touched life were nothing. Here, as
The Yellow Book Vol. II. H I called
I called the dearest names, their echoes came back again with the
sound of an unlearned language. I did not recognise, and yet I
framed them. What was had never been !
My spirit summoned the being who claimed mine. He came,
stretching out arms of deathless welcome. As he reached me my
heart took flight. I called aloud to it, but my cries were lost in
awful laughter that broke to my bewildered fancy from the
hideously familiar shapes which had returned and now encircled
the grand form of him I loved. But I had never known him.
I beat my breast to wake there the wonted pain of tingling joy.
I called past experience with unavailing importunity to bear
witness the man was wildly dear to me. He was not. He left
me with bent head a stranger, whom I would not if I could
For one brief second, reason found me. I struggled to shake
off the phantoms of despair. I tried to grasp while it yet lingered
the teaching of this never-to-be-forgotten front of death. The
homeless house with its indefensible bow window stood out from
beneath the prison walls again. What had this to do with it ?
I questioned. And the answer it had evoked replied, " Not
the desolation of something lost, but of something that had never
The half-clad girl of the wretched picture-shop came into view
with waxen hands and senseless symbolism. I had grown calmer,
but her doll-like lips hissed out the same half-meaningless but
pregnant words. Then the nights of a short life when I could
pray, years back in magical childhood, sought me. They found me
past them without the power
Truly the body had been for me the manifestation of the thing
called soul. Here was my embodiment bereft. My face was
stiff with drying tears. Sickly I longed to beg of an unknown God
By Charlotte M. Mew 133
a miracle. Would He but touch the passive body and breathe into
it the breath even of transitory life.
I craved but a fleeting proof of its ever possible existence. For
to me it was not, would never be, and had never been.
The partially relinquished horror was renewing dominance.
Speech of any incoherence or futility would have brought mental
power of resistance. My mind was fast losing landmarks amid the
continued quiet of the living and the awful stillness of the dead.
There was no sound, even of savage guidance, I should not then
have welcomed with glad response.
"The realm of Silence," says one of the world s great teachers,
" is large enough beyond the grave."
I seemed to have passed life s portal, and my soul s small strength
was beating back the noiseless gate. In my extremity, I cried,
" O God ! for man s most bloody warshout, or Thy whisper ! "
It was useless. Not one dweller in the crowded tenements broke
his slumber or relaxed his labour in answer to the involuntary
And may the Day of Account of Words take note of this !
Then, says the old fable, shall the soul of the departed be weighed
against an image of Truth. I tried to construct in imagination
the form of the dumb deity who should bear down the balances
for me. Soundlessness was turning fear to madness. I could
neither quit nor longer bear company the grim Presence in that
room. But the supreme moment was very near.
Long since, the four low candles had burned out, and now the
lamp was struggling fitfully to keep alight. The flame could last
but a few moments. I saw it, and did not face the possibility or
darkness. The sleeping girl, I concluded rapidly, had used all
available weapons of defiant light.
As yet, since my entrance, I had hardly stirred, steadily support
ing the burden on my breast. Now, without remembrance of it,
I started up to escape. The violent suddenness of the action woke
my companion. She staggered blindly to her feet and confronted
me as I gained the door.
Scarcely able to stand, and dashing the dimness from her eyes,
she clutched a corner of the drawers behind her for support.
Her head thrown back, and her dark hair hanging round it,
crowned a grandly tragic form. This was no poor pleader, and I
was unarmed for fight. She seized my throbbing arm and cried
in a whisper, low and hoarse, but strongly audible :
" For God s sake, stay here with me."
My lips moved vainly. I shook my head.
" For God in heaven s sake " she repeated, swaying, and
turning her burning, reddened eyes on mine "don t leave me
I stood irresolute, half stunned. Stepping back, she stooped
and began piecing together the dismembered letter on the bed.
A mute protest arrested her from a cold sister s face. She
swept the action from her, crying, " No ! " and bending forward
suddenly, gripped me with fierce force.
" Here ! Here ! " she prayed, dragging me passionately back
into the room.
The piteous need and wild entreaty no, the vision of dire
anguish was breaking my purpose of flight. A fragrance that
was to haunt me stole between us. The poor little violets put
in their plea. I moved to stay. Then a smile the splendour
of it may never be reached again touched her pale lips and broke
through them, transforming, with divine radiance, her young
and blurred and never-to-be-forgotten face. It wavered, or was
it the last uncertain flicker of the lamp that made me fancy it . ?
The exquisite moment was barely over when darkness came.
By Charlotte M. Mew 135
Then light indeed forsook me. Almost ignorant of my own
intention, I resisted the now trembling figure, indistinguishable
m the gloom, but it still clung. I thrust it off me with un
She fell heavily to the ground. Without a pause of thought I
stumbled down the horrible unlighted stairs. A few steps before
I reached the bottom my foot struck a splint off the thin edge of
one of the rotten treads. I slipped, and heard a door above open
and then shut. No other sound. At length I was at the door.
It was ajar. I opened it and looked out. Since I passed through
it first the place had become quite deserted. The inhabitants
were, I suppose, all occupied elsewhere at such an hour on their
holiday night. The lamps, if there were any, had not been lit.
The outlook was dense blackness. Here too the hideous dark
pursued me and silence held its sway. Even the children were
screaming in more enticing haunts of gaudy squalor. Some,
whose good angels perhaps had not forgotten them, had put
themselves to sleep. Not many hours ago their shrieks were
deafening. Were these too in conspiracy against me ? I
remembered vaguely hustling some of them with unmeant harsh
ness in my hurried progress from the Church. Dumb the whole
place seemed ; and it was, but for the dim stars aloft, quite dark.
I dared not venture across the threshold, bound by pitiable
cowardice to the spot. Alas for the unconscious girl upstairs.
A murmur from within the house might have sent me back to
her. Certainly it would have sent me, rather than forth into the
empty street. The faintest indication of humanity had recalled
me. I waited the summons of a sound. It came.
But from the deserted, yet not so shamefully deserted, street.
A man staggering home by aid of friendly railings, set up a
drunken song. At the first note I rushed towards him, pushing
past him in wild departure, and on till I reached the noisome and
flaring thoroughfare, a haven where sweet safety smiled. Here I
breathed joy, and sped away without memory of the two lifeless
beings lying alone in that shrouded chamber of desolation, and
with no instinct to return.
My sole impulse was flight ; and the way, unmarked in the
earlier evening, was unknown. It took me some minutes to find
a cab ; but the incongruous vehicle, rudely dispersing the hag
gling traders in the roadway, came at last, and carried me from
the distorted crowd of faces and the claims of pity to peace.
I lay back shivering, and the wind crept through the rattling
glass in front of me. I did not note the incalculable turnings that
took me home.
My account of the night s adventure was abridged and un-
sensational. I was pressed neither for detail nor comment, but
accorded a somewhat humorous welcome which bade me say
farewell to dying horror, and even let me mount boldly to the
once death-haunted room.
Upon its threshold I stood and looked in, half believing possible
the greeting pictured there under the dead girl s influence, and I
could not enter. Again I fled, this time to kindly light, and
heard my brothers laughing noisily with a friend in the bright hall.
A waltz struck up in the room above as I reached them. I
joined the impromptu dance, and whirled the remainder of that
evening gladly away.
Physically wearied, I slept. My slumber had no break in it.
I woke only to the exquisite joys of morning, and lay watching
the early shadows creep into the room. Presently the sun rose.
His first smile greeted me from the glass before my bed. I
sprang up disdainful of that majestic reflection, and flung the
window wide to meet him face to face. His splendour fell too on
By Charlotte M. Mew 137
one who had trusted me, but I forgot it. Not many days later
the same sunlight that turned my life to laughter shone on the
saddest scene of mortalending, and, for one I had forsaken, lit the
ways of death. I never dreamed it might. For the next morn
ing the tragedy of the past night was a distant one, no longer in
At twelve o clock, conscience suggested a search. I acquiesced,
but did not move. At half-past, it insisted on one, and I obeyed.
I set forth with a determination of success and no clue to promise
it. At four o clock, I admitted the task hopeless and abandoned
it. Duty could ask no more of me, I decided, not wholly dis
satisfied that failure forbade more difficult demands. As I passed
it on my way home, some dramatic instinct impelled me to re-
enter the unsightly church.
I must almost have expected to see the same prostrate figure,
for my eyes instantly sought the corner it had occupied. The
winter twilight showed it empty. A service was about to begin.
One little lad in violet skirt and goffered linen was struggling to
light the benediction tapers, and a troop of school children pushed
past me as I stood facing the altar and blocking their way. A
grey-clad sister of mercy was arresting each tiny figure, bidding it
pause beside me, and with two firm hands on either shoulder,
compelling a ludicrous curtsey, and at the same time whispering
the injunction to each hurried little personage, "always make a
reverence to the altar." " Ada, come back ! " and behold another
unwilling bob ! Perhaps the good woman saw her Master s face
behind the tinsel trappings and flaring lights. But she forgot His
words. The saying to these little ones that has rung through
centuries commanded liberty and not allegiance. I stood aside
till they had shuffled into seats, and finally kneeling stayed till the
brief spectacle of the afternoon was over.
Towards its close I looked away rrom the mumbling priest,
whose attention, divided between inconvenient millinery and the
holiest mysteries, was distracting mine.
Two girls holding each other s hands came in and stood in
deep shadow behind the farthest rows of high-backed chairs by the
door. The younger rolled her head from side to side ; her shift
ing eyes and ceaseless imbecile grimaces chilled my blood. The
other, who stood praying, turned suddenly (the place but for the
flaring altar lights was dark) and kissed the dreadful creature by
her side. I shuddered, and yet her face wore no look of loath
ing nor of pity. The expression was a divine one of habitual
She wiped the idiot s lips and stroked the shaking hand in hers,
to quiet the sad hysterical caresses she would not check. It was a
page of gospel which the old man with his back to it might never
read. A sublime and ghastly scene.
Up in the little gallery the grey-habited nuns were singing a
long Latin hymn of many verses, with the refrain " Oh ! Sacred
Heart ! " I buried my face till the last vibrating chord of the
accompaniment was struck. The organist ventured a plagal
cadence. It evoked no "amen." I whispered one, and an acci
dentally touched note shrieked disapproval. I repeated it. Then
I spit upon the bloodless cheek of duty, and renewed my quest.
This time it was for the satisfaction of my own tingling soul.
I retook my unknown way. The streets were almost empty
and thinly strewn with snow. It was still falling. I shrank from
marring the spotless page that seemed outspread to challenge and
exhibit the defiling print of man. The quiet of the muffled
streets soothed me. The neighbourhood seemed lulled into un
Black little figures lurched out of the white alleys in twos and
By Charlotte M. Mew 139
threes. But their childish utterances sounded less shrill than
usual, and sooner died away.
Now in desperate earnest I spared neither myself nor the incre
dulous and dishevelled people whose aid I sought.
Fate deals honestly with all. She will not compromise though
she may delay. Hunger and weariness at length sent me home,
with an assortment of embellished negatives ringing in my failing
I had almost forgotten my strange experience, when, some months
afterwards, in late spring, the wraith of that winter meeting appeared
to me. It was past six o clock, and I had reached, ignorant of the
ill-chosen hour, a notorious thoroughfare in the western part of this
glorious and guilty city. The place presented to my unfamiliar
eyes a remarkable sight. Brilliantly lit windows, exhibiting dazz
ling wares, threw into prominence the human mart.
This was thronged. I pressed into the crowd. Its steady and
opposite progress neither repelled nor sanctioned my admittance.
However, I had determined on a purchase, and was not to
be baulked by the unforeseen. I made it, and stood for a moment
at the shop-door preparing to break again through the rapidly
Up and down, decked in frigid allurement, paced the insatiate
daughters of an everlasting king. What fair messengers, with
streaming eyes and impotently craving arms, did they send afar off
ere they thus " increased their perfumes and debased themselves
even unto hell " ? This was my question. I asked not who
forsook them, speaking in farewell the "hideous English of their
I watched coldly, yet not inapprehensive or a certain grandeur
in the scene. It was Virtue s very splendid Dance of Death.
1 40 Passed
A sickening confusion of odours assailed my senses; each
essence a vile enticement, outraging Nature by a perversion of her
own pure spell.
A timidly protesting fragrance stole strangely by. I started at
its approach. It summoned a stinging memory. I stepped for
ward to escape it, but stopped, confronted by the being who had
shared, by the flickering lamp-light and in the presence of that
silent witness, the poor little violet s prayer.
The man beside her was decorated with a bunch of sister
flowers to those which had taken part against him, months ago, in
vain. He could have borne no better badge of victory. He was
looking at some extravagant trifle in the window next the entry I
had just crossed. They spoke, comparing it with a silver case he
turned over in his hand. In the centre I noticed a tiny enamelled
shield. The detail seemed familiar, but beyond identity. They
entered the shop. I stood motionless, challenging memory, till it
produced from some dim corner of my brain a hoarded " No."
The device now headed a poor strip of paper on a dead girl s
bed. I saw a figure set by death, facing starvation, and with ruin
in torn fragments in her hand. But what place in the scene had
I ? A brief discussion next me made swift answer.
They were once more beside me. The man was speaking :
his companion raised her face ; I recognised its outline, its true
aspect I shall not know. Four months since it wore the mask
of sorrow ; it was now but one of the pages of man s immortal
book. I was conscious of the matchless motions which in the
dim church had first attracted me.
She was clothed, save for a large scarf of vehemently brilliant
crimson, entirely in dull vermilion. The two shades might serve
as symbols of divine and earthly passion. Yet does one ask the
martyr s colour, you name it Red (and briefly thus her gar
By Charlotte M. Mew 141
ment) : no distinctive hue. The murderer and the prelate too
may wear such robes of office. Both are empowered to bless and
My mood was reckless. I held my hands out, craving mercy.
It was my bitter lot to beg. My warring nature became unani
mously suppliant, heedless of the debt this soul might owe me
of the throes to which I left it, and of the discreditable marks
of mine it bore. Failure to exact regard I did not entertain.
I waited, with exhaustless fortitude, the response to my appeal.
Whence it came I know not. The man and woman met my
gaze with a void incorporate stare. The two faces were merged
into one avenging visage so it seemed. I was excited. As
they turned towards the carriage waiting them, I heard a laugh,
mounting to a cry. It rang me to an outraged Temple.
Sabbath bells peal sweeter calls, as once this might have done.
I knew my part then in the despoiled body, with its soul s
tapers long blown out.
Wheels hastened to assail that sound, but it clanged on.
Did it proceed from some defeated angel ? or the woman s
mouth ? or mine ? God knows !
Sat est scripsisse
By Austin Dobson
To E. G., with a Volume of Essays
WHEN you and I have wandered beyond the reach of call,
And all our works immortal are scattered on the Stall,
It may be some new Reader, in that remoter age,
Will find this present volume, and listless turn the page.
For him I write these Verses. And " Sir " (I say to him),
"This little Book you see here this masterpiece of Whim,
Of Wisdom, Learning, Fancy (if you will, please, attend),
Was written by its Author, who gave it to his Friend.
" For they had worked together, been Comrades ot the Pen ;
They had their points at issue, they differed now and then ;
But both loved Song and Letters, and each had close at heart
The dreams, the aspirations, the dear delays of Art.
" And much they talk d of Metre, and more they talked of Style,
Of Form and lucid Order, of labour of the File ;
And he who wrote the writing, as sheet by sheet was penned,
(This all was long ago, Sir !) would read it to his Friend.
By Austin Dobson 143
u They knew not, nor cared greatly, if they were spark or star,
They knew to move is somewhat, although the goal be far ;
And larger light or lesser, this thing at least is clear,
They served the Muses truly, their service was sincere.
" This tattered page you see, Sir, is all that now remains
(Yes, fourpence is the lowest !) of all those pleasant pains ;
And as for him that read it, and as for him that wrote,
No Golden Book enrolls them among its Names of Note.
" And yet they had their office. Though they to-day are passed,
They marched in that procession where is no first or last ;
Though cold is now their hoping, though they no more aspire,
They, too, had once their ardour : they handed on the fire."
By V., O., C.S.
I Honi soit qui mal y pense
By C. S.
r~\ UT I m not very tall, am I ?" said the little book-keeper,
[j coming close to the counter so as to prevent me from
seeing that she was standing on tiptoe.
" A p tite woman," said I, "goes straight to my heart."
The book-keeper blushed and looked down, and began finger-
ng a bunch of keys with one hand.
" How is the cold ? " I asked. " You don t seem to cough so
" It always gets bad again at night," she answered, still looking
down and playing with her keys.
I reached over to them, and she moved her hand quickly away
and clasped it tightly with the other.
I picked up the keys : " Store-room, Cellar, Commercial
Room, Office," said I, reading off the names on the labels
" why, you seem to keep not only the books, but everything else
She turned away to measure out some whisky at the other
By V., O., C.S. 145
window, and then came back and held out her hand for the
" What a pretty ring," I said ; " I wonder I haven t notice d
it before. You can t have had it on lately."
She looked at me fearfully and again covered her hand.
Please give me my keys."
" Yes, if I may look at the ring."
The little book-keeper turned away, and slipping quietly on to
her chair, burst into tears.
I pushed open the door of the office and walked in.
" What is it ? " I whispered, bending over her and gently
smoothing her hair.
" I I hate him ! " she sobbed.
" Him ? Him ? "
" Yes, the the ring man."
I felt for the little hand among the folds or the inky table
cloth, and stooped and kissed her forehead. " Forgive me, dear
" Go away," she sobbed, " go away. I wish I had never seen
you. It was all my fault : I left off wearing the ring on purpose,
but he s coming here to-day and and we are so many at
home and have so little money
And as I went upstairs to pack I could see the little brown
head bent low over the inky table-cloth.
146 Three Stories
II -A Purple Patch
IT was nearly half-past four. Janet was sitting in the drawing-
room reading a novel and waiting for tea. She was in one of
those pleasing moods when the ordinary happy circumstances of
life do not pass unnoticed as inevitable. She was pleased to be
living at home with her father and sister, pleased that her father
was a flourishing doctor, and that she could sit idle in the drawing-
room, pleased at the pretty furniture, at the flowers which she had
bought in the morning.
She seldom felt so. Generally these things did not enter her
head as a joy in themselves ; and this mood never came upon her
when, according to elderly advice, it would have been useful. In
no trouble, greater small, could she gain comfort from remember
ing that she lived comfortably ; but sometimes without any
reason, as now, she felt glad at her position.
When the parlour-maid came in and brought the lamp, Janet
watched her movements pleasurably. She noticed all the ways of
a maid in an orderly house : how she placed the lighted lamp on
the table at her side, then went to the windows and let down the
blinds and drew the curtains, then pulled a small table forward,
spread a blue-edged cloth on it, and walked out quietly, pushing
her cuffs up a little.
She was pleased too with her novel, Miss Braddon s Asphodel.
For some time she had enjoyed reading superior books. She knew
that Asphodel vfv& bad, and saw its inferiority to the books which
By V., O., C.S. 147
she had lately read ; but that did not prevent her pleasure at being
back with Miss Braddon.
The maid came in and set the glass-tray on the table which she
had just covered, took a box of matches from her apron pocket, lit
the wick of the silver spirit-stove and left the room. Janet watched
the whole proceeding with pleasure, sitting still in the arm-chair.
Three soft raps on the gong and Gertrude appeared. She made the
tea, and they talked. When they had finished, Gertrude sat at her
desk and began to write a lettter, and still talking, Janet gradually
let herself into her novel once more. There was plenty of the
story left, she would read right on till dinner.
They had finished talking for some minutes when they heard a
" Oh, Gerty, suppose this is a visitor ! " Janet said, looking up
from her book.
Gertrude listened. Janet prayed all the time that it might not
be a visitor, and she gave a low groan as she heard heavy steps
upon the stairs. Gertrude s desk was just opposite the door, and
directly the maid opened it she saw that the visitor was an
awkward young man who never had anything to say. She ex
changed a glance with Janet, then Janet saw the maid who
announced, u Mr. Huddleston."
And then she saw Mr. Huddleston. She laid her book down
open on the table behind her, and rose to shake hands with him.
Janet had one conversation with Mr. Huddleston music : they
were very slightly acquainted, and they never got beyond that
subject. She smiled at the inevitableness of her question as she
" Were you at the Saturday Afternoon Concert ? "
When they had talked for ten minutes with some difficulty,
Gertrude, who had finished her letter, left the room : she was
The Yellow Book Vol. II. I engaged
148 Three Stories
engaged to be married, and was therefore free to do anything
she liked. After a visit of half an hour Huddleston went.
Janet rang the bell, and felt a little guilty as she took up the
open book directly her visitor had gone. She did not know quite
why, but she was dissatisfied. However, in a moment or two she
was deep in the excitement of Asphodel.
She read on for a couple of hours, and then she heard the
carriage drive up to the door. She heard her father come into
the house and go to his consulting-room, then walk upstairs to his
bedroom, and she knew that in a few minutes he would be down
in the drawing-room to talk for a quarter of an hour before dinner.
When she heard him on the landing, she put away her book ;
Gertrude met him just at the door ; they both came in together,
and then they all three chatted. But instead of feeling in a con
tented mood, because she had read comfortably, as she had intended
all the afternoon, Janet was dissatisfied, as if the afternoon had
slipped by without being enjoyed, wasted over the exciting
And towards the end of dinner her thoughts fell back on an
old trouble which had been dully threatening her. Gertrude
was her father s favourite ; gay and pretty, she had never been
difficult. Janet was more silent, could not amuse her father and
make him laugh, and he was not fond of her. She would find
still more difficulty when Gertrude was married, and she was
left alone with him. His health was failing, and he was growing
very cantankerous. She dreaded the prospect, and already the
doctor was moaning to Gerty about her leaving, and she was
making him laugh for the last time over the very cause of his
dejection. Not that he would have retarded her marriage by a
day ; he was extremely proud of her engagement to the son of the
great Lady Beamish.
By V., O., C.S. 149
That thought had been an undercurrent of trouble ever since
Gertrude s engagement, and she wondered how she could have
forgotten it for a whole afternoon. Now she was as fully miserable
as she had been content four hours before, and her trouble at the
moment mingled with her unsatisfactory recollection of the
afternoon, her annoyance at Mr. Huddleston s interruption,
and the novel which she had taken up directly he had left the
A year after Gertrude s marriage Dr. Worgan gave up his work
and decided at last to carry out a cherished plan. One of his oldest
friends was going to Algiers with his wife and daughter. The
doctor was a great favourite with them ; he decided to sell his house
in London, and join the party in their travels. The project had
been discussed for a long time, and Janet foresaw an opportunity of
going her own way. She was sure that her father did not want
her. She had hinted at her wish to stay in England and work for
herself; but she did not insist or trouble her father, and as he did
not oppose her she imagined that the affair was understood. When
the time for his departure drew close, Janet said something about
her arrangements which raised a long discussion. Dr. Worgan
expressed great astonishment at her resolution, and declared that
she had not been open with him. Janet could not understand his
sudden opposition ; perhaps she had not been explicit enough ;
but surely they both knew what they wereabout, and it wasobviously
better that they should part.
They were in the drawing-room. Dr. Worgan felt aggrieved
that the affair should be taken so completely out of his hands ; he
had been reproaching her, and arguing for some time. Janet s
150 Three Stories
tone vexed him. She was calm, disinclined to argue, behaving as
if the arrangement were quite decided : he would have been better
pleased if she had cried or lost her temper.
" It s very easy to say that ; but, after all, you re not independ
ent. You say you want to get work as a governess ; but that s
only an excuse for not going away with me."
"You never let me do anything for you."
" I don t ask you to. I never demand anything of you. I m
not a tyrant ; but that s no reason why you should want to desert
me ; you re the last person I have."
Janet hated arguments and talk about affairs which were
obviously settled. They had talked for almost an hour, they
could neither of them gain anything from the conversation, and
yet her father seemed to delight in prolonging it. She did not
wish to defend her course. She would willingly have allowed her
father to put her in the wrong, if only he had left her alone to do
what both of them wanted.
" You want to pose as a kind of martyr, I suppose. Your
father hasn t treated you well, he only loved your sister ; you ve a
grievance against him."
" No, indeed ; you know it s not so."
The impossibility of answering such charges, all the unnecessary
fatigue, had brought her very near crying : she felt the lump in
her throat, the aching in her breast. Be a governess ? Why,
she would willingly be a factory girl, working her life out for a
few shillings a week, if only she could be left alone to be straight
forward. The picture of the girls with shawl and basket leaving the
factory came before her eyes. She really envied them, and pictured
herself walking home to her lonely garret, forgotten and in peace.
" But that s how our relations and friends will look upon your
By V., O., C.S. 151
" Oh no," she answered, trying to smile and say something
amusing after the manner of Gertrude ; "they will only shake
their heads at their daughters and say, There goes another rebel
who isn t content to be beautiful, innocent, and protected. "
But Janet s attempts to be amusing were not successful with
" They won t at all. They ll say, At any rate her father is
well off enough to give her enough to live upon, and not make
her work as a governess."
" We know that s got nothing to do with it. If I were depend
ent, I should feel I d less right to choose "
"But you re mistaken; that s not honesty, but egoism, on
Janet had nothing to answer ; there was a pause, as if her father
wished her to argue the point. She thought, perhaps, she had
better say something, else she would show too plainly that she
saw he was in the wrong ; but she said nothing, and he went on :
"And what will people say at the idea of you re being a gover
ness ? Practically a servant in a stranger s house, with a pretence
of equality, but less pay than a good cook. What will all our
friends say ? "
Janet did not wish to say to herself in so many words that her
father was a snob. If he had left her alone, she would have been
satisfied with the unacknowledged feeling that he attached import
ance to certain things.
" Surely people of understanding know there s no harm in being
a governess, and I m quite willing to be ignored by any one who
can t see that."
These were the first words she spoke with any warmth.
"Selfishness again. It s not only your concern: what will
your sister think and feel about it ? "
152 Three Stories
"Gerty is sensible enough to think as I do ; besides, she is very
happy, and so has no right to dictate to other people about their
affairs ; indeed, she won t trouble about it why should she ? I m
not part of her."
" You re unjust to Gertrude : your sister is too sweet and
modest to wish to dictate to any one."
"Exactly." Janet could not help saying this one word, and yet
she knew that it would irritate her father still more.
" And who would take you as a governess ? You don t find
it easy to live even with your own people, and I don t know what
you can teach. Perhaps you will reproach me as Laura did her
mother, and say it was my fault you didn t go to Girton ? "
" Oh, I think I can manage. My music is not much, I
know ; but I think it s good enough to be useful."
" Are you going to say that I was wrong in not encouraging
you to train for a professional musician ? "
" I hadn t the faintest notion of reproaching you for anything :
it was only modesty."
She knew that having passed the period when she might have
cried, she was being fatigued into the flippant stage, and her
father hated that above everything.
" Now you re beginning to sneer in your superior way,"
Dr. Worgan said, walking up the room, " talking to me as if
I were an idiot "
He was interrupted by the maid who came in to ask Janet
whether she could put out the light in the hall. Janet looked
questioningly at her father, who had faced round when he heard
the door open, and he said yes.
"And, Gallant," Janet cried after her, and then went on in
0. lower tone as she reappeared, " we shall want breakfast at eight
to-morrow ; Dr. Worgan is going out early."
By V., O., C.S. 153
The door was shut once more. Her father seemed vexed at
the interruption so welcome to her.
Well, I never could persuade you in anything; but I resent
the way in which you look on my advice as if it were selfish
I m only anxious for your own welfare."
In bed Janet lay awake thinking over the conversation. She
had an instinctive dislike to judging any one, especially her father.
Why couldn t people who understood each other remain satisfied
with their tacit understanding, and each go his own way with
out pretence ? She was sure her father did not really want her,
he was only opposing her desertion to justify himself in his
own eyes, trying to persuade himself that he did love her. If he
had just let things take their natural course and made no
objections against his better judgment, she would not have
criticised him ; she had never felt aggrieved at his preference
for Gertrude : it so happened that she was not sympathetic
to him, and they both knew it. Over and over again as she lay
in bed, she argued out all these points with herself. If he had
said, " You re a good girl, you re doing the right thing ; I admire
you, though we re not sympathetic," his humanity would have
given her deep pleasure, and they might have felt more loving
towards each other than ever before. Perhaps that was too
much to expect ; but at any rate he might have left her alone.
Anything rather than all this pretence, which forced her to
criticise him and defend herself.
But perhaps she had not given him a chance ? She knew that
every movement and look of hers irritated him : if only she
could have not been herself, he might have been generous. But
then, as if to make up for this thought, she said aloud to herself:
" Generosity, logic, and an objection to unnecessary talking
154 Three Stories
are manly qualities." And then she repented for becoming
" But why must all the hateful things in life be defined and
printed on one s mind in so many words ? I could face diffi
culties quite well without being forced to set all the unpleas
antnesses in life clearly out. And this makes me bitter."
She was terribly afraid of becoming bitter. Bitterness was for
the failures, and why should she own to being a failure ; surely
she was not aiming very high? She was oppressed by the
horrible fear of becoming old-maidish and narrow. Perhaps she
would change gradually without being able to prevent, without
even noticing the change. Every now and then she spoke her
"I can t have taking ways : some people think I m superior
and crushing, father says I m selfish ; " and yet she could not
think of any great pleasures which she had longed for and
claimed. Gerty had never hidden her wishes or sacrificed anything
to others, and she always got everything she fancied ; yet she was
Then the old utter dejection came over her as she thought of
her life ; if no one should love her, and she should grow old
and fixed in desolation ? This was no sorrow at an unfortunate
circumstance, but a dejection so far-reaching that its existence
seemed to her more real than her own ; it must have existed in the
world before she was born, it must have been since the beginning.
The smaller clouds which had darkened her day were forced aside,
and the whole heaven was black with this great hopelessness. If
any sorrow had struck her, death, disgrace, crime, that would have
been a laughing matter compared with this.
Perhaps life would be better when she was a governess ; she
would be doing something, moulding her own life, ill-treated with
By V., O., C.S. 155
actual wrongs perhaps. In the darkness of her heaven there
came a little patch of blue sky, the hopefulness which was always
there behind the cloud, and she fell asleep, dreamily looking forward
to a struggle, to real life with possibilities dim pictures.
A month afterwards, on a bitterly cold February day, Janet was
wandering miserably about the house. She was to start in a few
days for Bristol, where she had got a place as governess to two
little girls, the daughters of a widower, a house-master at the
school. Her father had left the day before. Janet could not help
crying as she sat desolately in her cold bedroom trying to concern
herself with packing and the arrangements for her journey. She
was to dine that evening with Lady Beamish, to meet Gerty and
her husband and say good-bye. She did not want to go a bit, she
would rather have stayed at home and been miserable by herself.
She had, as usual, asked nothing of any of her friends ; she felt
extraordinarily alone, and she grew terrified when she asked
herself what connected her with the world at all, how was she
going to live and why ? What hold had she on life ? She might
go on as a governess all her life and who would care ? What
reason had she to suppose that anything would justify her living ?
From afar the struggle had looked attractive, there was something
fine and strong in it ; that would be life indeed when she would
have to depend entirely upon herself and work her way ; but now
that the time was close at hand, the struggle only looked very
bitter and prosaic. In her imagination beforehand she had always
looked on at herself admiringly as governess and been strengthened
156 Three Stories
by the picture. Now she was acting to no gallery. Whatever
strength and virtue there was in her dealing met no one s approval ;
and all she had before her in the immediate future was a horrible
sense of loneliness, a dreaded visit, two more days to be occupied
with details of packing, a cab to the station, the dull east wind, the
journey, the leave-taking all the more exquisitely painful because
she felt that no one cared. The sense of being neglected gave her
physical pain all over her body until her finger-tips ached. How
is it possible, she thought, that a human being in the world for
only a few years can be so hopeless and alone ?
In the cab on her way to Lady Beamish she began to think
at once of the evening before her. She tried to comfort herself
with the idea of seeing Gerty, sweet Gerty, who charmed every
one, and what close friends they had been ! But the thought of
Lady Beamish disturbed and frightened her. Lady Beamish
was a very handsome woman of sixty, with gorgeous black hair
showing no thread of white. She had been a great beauty, and a
beauty about whom no one could tell any stories ; she had married
a very brilliant and successful man, and seconded him most ably
during his lifetime. Those who disliked her declared she was
fickle, and set too much value on her social position. Janet had
always fancied that she objected from the beginning to her second
son^s engagement to Gertrude ; but there was no understanding
her, and if Janet had been asked to point to some one who was
radically unsimple, she would at once have thought of Lady
Beamish. She had been told of many charming things which she
had done, and she had heard her say the sweetest things ; but then
suddenly she was stifF and unforgiving. There was no doubt
about her cleverness and insight ; many of her actions showed
complete disregard of convention, and yet, whenever Janet had
seen her, she had always been lifted up on a safe height by her
By V., O., C.S. 157
own high birth, her dead husband s distinctions, her imposing
appearance, and hedged round by all the social duties which she
performed so well. Janet saw that Lady Beamish s invitation was
kind ; but she was the last person with whom she would have
chosen to spend that evening. But here she was at the door,
there was no escape.
Lady Beamish was alone in the drawing-room. "I m very
sorry, I m afraid I ve brought you here on false pretences. I ve
just had a telegram from Gertrude to say that Charlie has a cold.
I suppose she s afraid it may be influenza, and so she s staying
at home to look after him. And Harry has gone to the play, so
we shall be quite alone." Janet s heart sank. Gerty had been
the one consoling circumstance about that evening ; besides, Lady
Beamish would never have asked her if Gerty had not been
coming. How would she manage with Lady Beamish all alone ?
She made up her mind to go as soon after dinner as she could.
They talked about Gertrude ; that was a good subject for Janet,
and she clung to it ; she was delighted to hear Lady Beamish praise
As they sat down to dinner Lady Beamish said :
" You re not looking well, Janet ? "
" I m rather tired," she answered lightly ; " I ve been troubled
lately, the weight of the world - but I m quite well."
Lady Beamish made no answer. Janet could not tell why she
had felt an impulse to speak the truth, perhaps just because she
was afraid of her, and gave up the task of feeling easy as hopeless.
They talked of Gertrude again. Dinner was quickly finished.
Instead of going back into the drawing-room, Lady Beamish took
her upstairs into her own room.
" I m sorry you have troubles which are making you thin and
pale. At your age life ought to be bright and full of romance :
158 Three Stories
you ought to have no troubles at all. I heard that you weren t going
to travel with your father, but begin work on your own account :
it seems to me you re quite right, and I admire your courage."
Janet was surprised that Lady Beamish should show so much
" My courage somehow doesn t make me feel cheerful," Janet
answered, laughing, " and I can t see anything hopeful in the
future to look forward to " Why am I saying all this to
her ? " she wondered.
" No ? And the consciousness of doing right as an upholding
power that is generally a fallacy. I think you are certainly
Janet looked at Lady Beamish, astonished and comforted to hear
these words from the lips of an old experienced woman.
" I am grateful to you for saying that ? ;
"It must be a hard wrench to begin a new kind of life."
" It s not the work or even the change which I mind ; if only
there were some assurance in life, something certain and hopeful :
I feel so miserably alone, acting on my own responsibility in the
only way possible, and yet for no reason "
" My poor girl " and she stretched out her arms. Janet rose
from her chair and took both her hands and sat down on the foot
stool at her feet. She looked up at her handsome face ; it seemed
divine to her lighted by that smile, and the wrinkles infinitely
touching and beautiful. There was an intimate air about the
" You ve decided to go away to Bristol ? "
" I thought I d be thorough : I might stay in London and get
work ; a friend of mine is editor of a lady s paper, and I suppose
she could give me something to do ; and there are other things I
could do ; but that doesn t seem to me thorough enough "
By V., O., C.S. 159
The superiority of the older experienced women made the girl
feel weak. She would have a joy in confessing herself.
" I suppose it was chiefly Gerty s marriage which set me think
ing I d better change. Until then Fd lived contentedly enough.
I m easily occupied, and I felt no necessity to work. But when I
was left alone with father, I began gradually to feel as if I couldn t
go on living so, as if I hadn t the right ; nothing I ever did pleased
him. And then I wondered what I was waiting for
She looked up at Lady Beamish and saw her fine features set
attentively to her story ; she could tell everything to such a face-
all these things of which she had never spoken to any one. She
looked away again.
" Was I waiting to get married ? That idea tortured me.
Why should ideas come and trouble us when they re untrue and
bear no likeness to our character ? "
She turned her head once more to glance at the face above
" I looked into myself. Was it true of me that my only out
look in life was a man, that that was the only aim of my life ? It
wasn t necessary to answer the question, for it flashed into my
mind with bitter truth that if I d been playing that game, I d
been singularly unsuccessful, so I needn t trouble about the
Astonished at herself, she moved her hand up, and Lady
Beamish stretched out hers, and held the girl s hand upon her lap.
Then, half ashamed of her frankness, she went on quickly and in
a more ordinary tone :
" Oh, that and everything else I was afraid of growing bitter.
When my father threw up his work and decided to go to Algiers
with his old friends, that seemed a good opportunity : I would do
something for myself, you re justified if you work. It seemed
160 Three Stories
hopeful then ; but now the prospect is as hopeless and desolate as
Janet saw the tears collecting in Lady Beamish s eyes, and her
underlip beginning to quiver. Lady Beamish dared not kiss the
girl for fear of breaking into tears : she stood up and went to
wards the fire, and trying to conquer her tears said : " Seeing you
in trouble makes all my old wounds break out afresh."
Janet gazed in wonder at her, feeling greatly comforted. Lady
Beamish put her hand on the girl s head as she sat before her and
said smiling : " It s strange how one sorrow brings up another,
and if you cry you can t tell for what exactly you re crying.
As I hear you talk of loneliness, I m reminded of my own loneli
ness, so different from yours. As long as my own great friend
was living, there was no possibility of loneliness ; I was proud, I
could have faced the whole world. But since he died, every year
has made me feel the want of a sister or brother, some one of my
own generation. I don t suppose you can understand what I
mean. You say : You have sons, and many friends who love and
respect you ; that s true, and, indeed, without my sons I should
not live ; but they ve all got past me, even Harry, the youngest.
I can do nothing more for them, and as years go by I grow less
able to do anything for anybody; my energy leaves me, and I sit
still and see the world in front of me, see men and women whom
I admire, whose conduct I commend inwardly, but that is all.
My heart aches sometimes for a companion of my own age who
would sit still with me, who understands my ideas, who has no
new object in view, who has done life and has been left behind
" Extremes meet," she broke off. " I wish to comfort you, who
are looking hopelessly forward, and all I can do is to show you an
old woman s sorrow."
By V., O., C.S. 161
"But wait," she went on, sitting down, "let us be practical ;
you needn t go back to-night, I ll tell some one to fetch your
things. And will you let me try and help you ? I don t know
whether I can ; but may I try ? Won t you stay a bit herewith
me ? You would then have time to think over your plans ; it
would do no harm, at any rate. Or, if you would prefer living
alone, would you let me help you ? Sometimes it s easier to be
indebted to strangers. Don t answer now, you know my offer is
sincere, coming at this time ; you can think it over."
She left her place and met the servant at the door, to give her
the order for the fetching of Janet s things. She came back and
stood with her hands behind her, facing Janet, who looked up to
her from her stool, adoring her as if she were a goddess.
" There s only one thing to do in life, to try and help those
whom we can help ; but it s very difficult to help you young
people," she said, drying her eyes ; " you generally want something
we cannot give you."
" You comforted me more than I can say. I never dreamed of
the possibility of such comfort as you re giving me."
Still standing facing Janet, she suddenly began : " I knew a
girl a long time ago ; she was the most exquisite creature I ve ever
seen. She was lovely as only a Jewess can be lovely : by her side
English beauties looked ridiculous, as if their features had been
thrown together by mistake a few days ago ; this girl s beauty was
eternal, I don t know how else to describe her superiority. There
was a harmony about her figure not as we have pretty figures
but every movement seemed to be the expression of a magnificent
nature. She had that strange look in her face which some Jews
have, a something half humorous half pitiful about the eyebrows ;
it was so remarkable in a young girl, as if an endless experience of
the world had been born in her not that she was tired or blase ;
I 62 Three Stories
she wasn t at all one of those young people who have seen the
vanity of everything, she was full of enthusiasm, fascinatingly
fresh ; she was so capable and sensitive that nothing could be
foreign or incomprehensible to her. I never saw any one so
unerring ; I would have wagered the world that she could never
be wrong in feeling. I never saw her misunderstand any one,
except on purpose."
Janet was rapt in attention, loving to hear this beauty s
praises in the mouth of Lady Beamish. She kept her gaze
fixed on the face, which now was turned towards her, now
towards the fire.
" At the time I remember some man was writing in the paper
about the inferiority of women, and as a proof he said quite truly
that there were no women artists except actresses. He happened
to mention one or two well-known living artists whom I knew
personally ; they weren t to be compared with this girl, and they
would have been the first to say so themselves. She had no need
to write her novels and symphonies ; she lived them. One would
have said a person most wonderfully fitted for life. Oh, I
could go on praising her for ever ; except once, I never fell
so completely in love as I did with her. To see her dance
and romp I hadn t realised before how a great nature can
show itself in everything a person does. It is a joy to think
" One day she came to me, it was twenty years ago, I was a little
over forty, she was just nineteen. She had fallen in love with a
boy of her own age, and was in terrible difficulties with herself. I
suppose it would have been more fitting if I d given her advice ;
but I was so full of pity at the sight of this exquisite nature in
torments that I could only try and comfort her and tell her above
all things she inusn t be oppressed by any sense of her own
By V., O., C.S. 163
wickedness ; we all had difficulties of the same kind, and we couldn t
expect to do more than just get along somehow as well as we
could. I was angry with Fate that such a harmonious being had been
made to jar with so heavy a strain. She had been free, and now she
was to be confounded and brought to doubt. I don t think I can
express it in words ; but I feel as if I really understood why she
killed herself a few days later. She had come among us, a wonder,
ignoring the littlenesses of life, or else making them worthy by
the spirit in which she treated them, and the first strain of this
dragging ordinary affliction bewildered her. Whether a little more
experience would have saved her, or whether it was a superior flash
of insight which prompted her to end her life at any rate it wasn t
merely unreturned love which oppressed her."
" And what was the man like ? "
" He was quite a boy, and never knew she was in love with him ;
in fact I can t tell how far she did love him. The older I grow the
more certain I feel that this actual love wasn t deep ; but it was
the sudden revelation of a whole mystery, a new set of difficulties,
which confounded an understanding so far-reaching and superior.
I remember her room distinctly ; she was unlike most women in
this respect, she had no desire to furnish her own room and be sur
rounded by pretty things of her own choice. She left the room
just as it was when the family took the furnished house, with
its very common ugly furniture, vile pictures on the walls, and
things under glasses. She carried so much beauty with her, she
didn t think her room worth troubling about. I always imagine
that her room has never been entered or changed since her death :
nothing stirs there, except in the summer a band of small flies
dance their mazy quadrille at the centre of the ceiling. I re
member how she used to lie on the sofa and wonder at them with
her half-laughing, half-pathetic eyes."
The Yellow Book Vol. II. K "And
164 Three Stories
" And what did her people think ? "
" Her family adored her : they were nice people, very ordi
There was a knock at the door and Henry appeared, red-
cheeked and smelling of the cold street. Janet rose from her stool
to shake hands with him : his entrance was an unpleasant inter
ruption ; she thought that his mother too must feel something of
the sort, although he was the one thing in the world she loved
" How was your play, Harry ? "
" Oh, simply wonderful."
" Was the house pretty full ? "
" Not very, though people were fairly enthusiastic ; but there
was a fool of a girl sitting in front of us, I could have kicked her,
she would go on laughing."
"Perhaps she thought you were foolish for not laughing !"
"But such a sloppy-looking person had no right to laugh."
" Opinions differ about personal appearance."
" Well, at any rate she had a dirty dress on ; the swan s-down
round her cloak was perfectly black."
" Ah, now your attack becomes more telling ! "
Lady Beamish had not changed her position. When Henry
left, Janet feared she might want to stop their confidential talk ;
but she showed no signs of wishing to go to bed.
" I wish boys would remain boys, and not grow older ; they
never grow into such nice men, they don t fulfil their promise."
She sat down once more, and went on to tell Janet
another story, a love story. When Janet, happy as she had
not been for months, kissed her and said good-night, she told
her how glad she was that no one else had been with her that
By V., O., C.S. 165
Janet went to bed, feeling that the world was possible once
more. Her mind was relieved of a great weight, she was wonder
fully light-hearted, now that she rested weakly upon another s
generosity, and was released from her egotistical hopelessness. She
no longer had a great trouble which engrossed her thoughts, her
mind was free to travel over the comforting circumstances of that
evening : the intimate room, Lady Beamish s face with the tears
gathering in her eyes, the confession she had made of her own
loneliness, her offer of help which had made the world human
again, her story and Henry s interruption, and the funny little
argument between the mother and the son whom she adored ; and
after that, Lady Beamish had still stayed talking, and had dropped
into telling of love as willingly as any school-girl, only everything
came with such sweet force from the woman with all that
experience of life. Every point in the evening with Lady
Beamish had gone to give her a deep-felt happiness ; hopes sprang
up in her mind, and she soon fell asleep filled with wonder and
pity, thinking of the lovely Jewess whom Lady Beamish had
known and admired so long ago, when Janet herself was only
five or six years old.
The older woman lay awake many hours thinking over her own
life, and the sorrows of this poor girl.
Janet did not take Lady Beamish s offer, but went to Bristol,
upheld by the idea that her friend respected her all the more for
keeping to her plans. The first night at Bristol, in the room
which was to be hers, she took out the old letter of invitation for
that evening, and before she went to bed she kissed the signature
" Clara Beamish " the Christian name seemed to bring them
1 66 Three Stones
When she had overcome the strangeness of her surroundings,
life was once more what it had always been ; there was no particular
struggle, no particular hopefulness. She was cheerful for no
reason on Monday, less cheerful for no reason on Wednesday.
The correspondence with Lady Beamish, which she had hoped
would keep up their friendship, dropped almost immediately ; the
two letters she received from her were stiff, far off. Janet heard of
her now and then, generally as performing some social duty.
They met too a few times, but almost as strangers.
But Janet always remembered that she had gained thecommenda-
tion of the wonderful woman, and that she approved of her ; and
she never forgot that evening, and the picture of Clara Beamish,
exquisitely sympathetic, adorable. It stood out as a bright spot
in life, nothing could change its value and reality.
Ill Sancta Maria
^HE fire had grown black and smoky, and the room felt cold.
1 It was about four o clock on a dark day in November. Black
snow-fraught clouds had covered the sky since the dawn. They
seemed to be saving up their wrath for the storm to come. A
woman sat close to the fire with a child in her arms. From time
to time she shuddered involuntarily. It was miserably cold. In
the corner of the room a man lay huddled up in a confusion of
rags and covers. He moaned from time to time. Suddenly
the fire leaped into a yellow flame, which lit up the room and
revealed all its nakedness and filth. The floor was bare, and
By V., O., C.S. 167
there were lumps of mud here and there on the boards, left
by the tramp of heavy boots. There was a strip of paper that
had come unfastened from the wall, and hung over in a large
curve. It was black and foul, but here and there could be seen
faintly a pattern of pink roses twined in and out of a trellis.
There was no furniture in the room but the chair on which the
woman sat. By the sick man s side was a white earthenware
bowl, full of a mixture that gave out a strong pungent smell which
pervaded the room. On the floor by the fireside was a black
straw hat with a green feather and a rubbed velvet bow in it.
The woman s face was white, and the small eyes were full of an
intense despair. As the flame shot up feebly and flickered about
she looked for something to keep alive the little bit of coal. She
glanced at the heap in the corner which had become quiet, then,
turning round, caught sight of the hat on the floor. She looked
at it steadily for a minute between the flickers of the flame,
then stooped down and picked it up. Carefully detaching the
trimming from the hat, she laid it on the chair. Then she tore
the bits of straw and lay them across each other over the little
piece of coal. The fire blazed brightly for a few minutes after
the straw had caught. It covered the room with a fierce light
and the woman looked afraid that the sick man might be disturbed.
But he was quiet as before. Almost mechanically she pulled a
little piece of the burning straw from the fire and, shading it with
her hand, stole softly to the other end of the room after depositing
the child on the chair.
She looked for some minutes at the figure stretched before
her. He lay with his face to the wall. He was a long thin
man, and it seemed to her as she looked that his length was
almost abnormal. Holding the light that was fast burning to
the end away from her, she stooped down and laid her finger
1 68 Three Stories
lightly on his forehead. The surface of his skin was cold
as ice. She knew that he was dead. But she did not cry out.
The eyes were filled with a look of bitter disappointment, and she
dropped the bit of burning straw, and then, moving suddenly from
her stooping posture, crushed out the little smouldering heap with
her heel. She looked about the room for something ; then
repeating a prayer to herself hurriedly, hastened to the child who
had woke up and was crying and kicking the bars of the wooden
chair. There was something in the contrast between the stillness
of the figure in the corner and the noise made by the child that
made the woman shiver. She took up the child in her arms,
comforted him, and sat down before the fire. She was thinking
deeply. So poor ! Scarcely enough to keep herself and the child
till the end of the week, and then the figure in the corner !
For some time she puzzled and puzzled. The burning straw
had settled into a little glowing heap. She rose and went to a little
box on the mantel-piece, and, opening it, counted the few coins
in it. Then she seemed to reckon for a few moments, and a
look of determination came into her face. She put the child
down again and went to the other end of the room. She stood a
moment over the prostrate figure, and then stooped down and took
off an old rag of a shawl and a little child s coat which lay over
the dead man s feet. She paused a moment. Again she stooped
down and stripped the figure of all its coverings, until nothing
was left but the dull white nightshirt that the man wore. She
put the bundle which she had collected in a little heap on the
other side of the room. Then she came back, and with an almost
superhuman effort reared the figure into an upright position
against the wall. She looked round for a moment, gathered up
the little bundle, and stole softly from the room. A few hours
later she came back. There was a gas lamp outside the window,
By V., O., C.S. 169
and by the light of it she saw the child sitting at the feet of the
figure, staring up at it stupidly.
* * *
Four days passed by, and still the figure stood against the wall.
The woman had grown very white and haggard. She had only
bought food enough for the child, and had scarce touched a
morsel herself. It was Saturday. She was expecting a few pence
for some matches which she had sold during the week. She was
not allowed to take her money immediately, but had to hand it
over to the owvner of the matches, who had told her that if she
had sold a certain quantity by the end of the week she should
be paid a small percentage.
So she went out on this Saturday and managed to get rid of
the requisite number, and carrying the money as usual to the
owner, received a few pence commission. There was an eager
look in her pale face as she hurried home and hastened to the
box on the mantel-shelf. She emptied its contents into her
hand, quickly counted up the total of her fortune, and then crept
It was snowing heavily, but she did not mind. The soft
flakes fell on her weary face, and she liked their warm touch.
She hurried along until she came to a tiny grocer s shop. The
red spot on her cheeks deepened as she asked the shopkeeper for
twelve candles -" Tall ones, please," she said in a whisper. She
pushed the money on to the counter and ran away home with
her parcel. Then she went up to the figure against the wall,
and gently placed it on the ground, away from the wall. She
opened the parcel and carefully stood up the twelve candles in
a little avenue, six each side of the dead man. With a feverous
excitement in her eyes she pulled a match from her pocket and
170 Three Stories
lit them. They burned steadily and brightly, casting a yellow
light over the cold naked room, and over the blackened face of
the dead man. The child that was rolling on the floor at the
other end of the room uttered a coo of joy at the bright lights,
and stretched out his tiny hands towards them. And the face
of the mother was filled with a divine pleasure.
The articles of her faith had been fulfilled.
By P. Wilson Steer
I. Portrait of Himself
II. A Lady
III. A Gentleman
In a Gallery-
Portrait of a Lady (Unknown)
By Katharine de Mattos
VEILED eyes, yet quick to meet one glance
Not his, not yours, but mine,
Lips that are fain to stir and breathe
Dead joys (not love nor wine) :
Tis not in you the secret lurks
That makes men pause and pass !
Did unseen magic flow from you
Long since to madden hearts,
And those who loathed remain to pray
And work their dolorous parts
To seek your riddle, dread or sweet,
And find it in the grave ?
Till some one painted you one day,
Perchance to ease his soul,
And set you here to weave your spells
While time and silence roll ;
And you were hungry for the hour
When one should understand ?
178 In a Gallery
Your jewelled fingers writhe and gleam
From out your sombre vest ;
Am I the first of those who gaze,
Who may their meaning guess,
Yet dare not whisper lest the words
Pale even painted cheeks ?
The Yellow Book
A Criticism of Volume I
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D.
I The Literature
THE Editor and Publishers of THE YELLOW BOOK, who seem
to know the value of originality in all things, have con
ceived the entirely novel idea of publishing in the current number
of their quarterly, a review in two parts of the number immediately
preceding it, one part to deal with the literature, and another to
criticise the illustrations.
I notice that on the cover of THE YELLOW BOOK the literary
contributions are described simply as " Letterpress." This seems
rather unfortunate, because "letterpress" is usually understood
to mean an inferior kind of writing, which is merely an accom
paniment to something else, such as engravings, or even maps.
Now, in THE YELLOW BOOK the principle seems to be that one
kind of contribution should not be made subordinate to another ;
the drawings and the writings are, in fact, independent. Certainly
the writings are composed without the slightest pre-occupation
concerning the work of the graphic artists, and the draughtsmen
do not illustrate the inventions of the scribes. This independ
180 The Yellow Book
ence of the two arts is favourable to excellence in both, besides
making the business of the Editor much easier, and giving him
more liberty of choice.
The literary contributions include poetry, fiction, short dramatic
scenes, and one or two essays. The Editor evidently attaches
much greater importance to creative than to critical literature, in
which he is unquestionably right, provided only that the work
which claims to be creative is inspired by a true genius for inven
tion. The admission of poetry in more than usual quantity does
not surprise us, when we reflect that THE YELLOW BOOK, is
issued by a publishing house which has done more than any other
for the encouragement of modern verse. It is the custom to
profess contempt for minor poets, and all versifiers of our time
except Tennyson and Swinburne are classed as minor poets by
critics who shrink from the effort of reading metrical compo
sitions. The truth is that poetry and painting are much more
nearly on a level in this respect than people are willing to admit.
Many a painter and many a poet has delicate perceptions and
a cultivated taste without the gigantic creative force that is neces
sary to greatness in his art.
Mr. Le Gallienne s " Tree- Worship " is full of the sylvan
sense, the delight in that forest life which we can scarcely help
believing to be conscious. It contains some perfect stanzas and
some magnificent verses. As a stanza nothing can be more
perfect than the fourth on page 58, and the fourth on the pre
ceding page begins with a rarely powerful line. The only weak
points in the poem are a few places in which even poetic truth
has not been perfectly observed. For example, in the first line
on page 58, the heart of the tree is spoken of as being remarkable
for its softness, a new and unexpected characteristic in heart of oak.
On the following page the tree is described as a green and welcome
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D. 181
"coast" to the sea of air. No single tree has extent enough to
be a coast of the air-ocean ; at most it is but a tiny green islet
therein. In the last stanza but one Mr. Le Gallienne speaks of
" the roar of sap." This conveys the idea of a noisy torrent,
whereas the marvel of sap is that it is steadily forced upwards
through a mass of wood by a quietly powerful pressure. I dislike
the fallacious theology of the last stanza as being neither scientific
nor poetical. Mr. Benson s little poem, Acu/wow^oV^ofj is lightly
and cleverly versified, and tells the story of a change of temper,
almost of nature, in very few words. The note of Mr. Watson s
two sonnets is profoundly serious, even solemn, and the work
manship firm and strong ; the reader may observe, in the second
sonnet, the careful preparation for the last line and the force with
which it strikes upon the ear. Surely there is nothing frivolous
or fugitive in such poetry as this ! I regret the publication of
"Stella Maris," by Mr. Arthur Symons; the choice of the title
is in itself offensive. It is taken from one of the most beautiful
hymns to the Holy Virgin (Ave, maris Stella !), and applied to a
London street-walker, as a star in the dark sea of urban life. We
know that the younger poets make art independent of morals, and
certainly the two have no necessary connection ; but why should
poetic art be employed to celebrate common fornication ? Ros-
setti s " Jenny " set the example, diffusely enough.
The two poems by Mr. Edmund Gosse, "Alere Flammam "
and "A Dream of November," have each the great quality of
perfect unity. The first is simpler and less fanciful than the
second. Both in thought and execution it reminds me strongly
of Matthew Arnold. Whether there has been any conscious
imitation or not, " Alere Flammam " is pervaded by what is best
in the classical spirit. Mr. John Davidson s two songs are
sketches in town and country, impressionist sketches well done in
1 82 The Yellow Book
a laconic and suggestive fashion. Mr. Davidson has a good
right to maledict " Elkin Mathews & John Lane" for having
revived the detestable old custom of printing catchwords at the
lower corner of the page. The reader has just received the full
impression of the London scene, when he is disturbed by the
isolated word FOXES, which destroys the impression and puzzles
him. London streets are not, surely, very favourable to foxes !
He then turns the page and finds that the word is the first in the
rural poem which follows. How Tennyson would have growled
if the printer had put the name of some intrusive beast at the foot
of one of his poems ! Even in prose the custom is still intoler
able ; it makes one read the word twice over as thus (pp. 159, 60),
"Why doesn t the wretched publisher publisher bring it out ! "
We find some further poetry in Mr. Richard Garnett s transla
tions from Luigi Tansillo. Not having access just now to the
original Italian, I cannot answer for their fidelity, but they are
worth reading, even in English, and soundly versified.
It is high time to speak of the prose. The essays are "A Defence
of Cosmetics," by Mr. Max Beerbohm, and " Reticence in Litera
ture," by Mr. Arthur Waugh. I notice that a critic in the New
York Nation says that the Whistlerian affectations of Mr. Beerbohm
are particularly intolerable. I understood his essay to be merely a
jeu d 1 esprit^ and found that it amused me, though the tastes and
opinions ingeniously expressed in it are precisely the opposite of
my own. Mr. Beerbohm is (or pretends to be) entirely on the
s ide of artifice against nature. The difficulty is to determine
what is nature. The easiest and most " natural " manners of a
perfect English lady are the result of art, and of a more advanced
art than that indicated by more ceremonious manners. Mr. Beer
bohm says that women in the time of Dickens appear to have
been utterly natural in their conduct, " flighty, gushing, blushing,
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D. 183
fainting, giggling, and shaking their curls." Much of that con
duct may have been as artificial as the curls themselves, and
assumed only to attract attention. Ladies used to faint on the
slightest pretext, not because it was natural but because it was the
fashion ; when it ceased to be the fashion they abandoned the
practice. Mr. Waugh s essay on " Reticence in Literature " is
written more seriously, and is not intended to amuse. He defends
the principle of reticence, but the only sanction that he finds for
it is a temporary authority imposed by the changing taste of the
age. We are consequently never sure of any permanent law that
will enforce any reticence whatever. A good proof of the extreme
laxity of the present taste is that Mr. Waugh himself has been
able to print at length three of the most grossly sensual stanzas in
Mr. Swinburne s " Dolores." Reticence, however, is not con
cerned only with sexual matters. There is, for instance, a flagrant
want of reticence in the lower political press of France and
America, and the same violent kind of writing, often going as far
beyond truth as beyond decency, is beginning to be imitated in
England. One rule holds good universally ; all high art is reticent,
e.g., in Dante s admirable way of telling the story of Francesca
through her own lips.
Mr. Henry James, in " The Death of the Lion," shows his usual
elegance of style, and a kind of humour which, though light enough
on the surface, has its profound pathos. It is absolutely essential,
in a short story, to be able to characterise people and things in a
very few words. Mr. James has this talent, as for example in his
description of the ducal seat at Bigwood : " very grand and frigid,
all marble and precedence." We know Bigwood, after that, as if
we had been there and have no desire to go. So of the Princess :
"She has been told everything in the world and has never per
ceived anything, and the echoes of her education" etc., p. 42. The
The Yellow Book Vol. II. L moral
184 The Yellow Book
moral of the story is the vanity and shallowness of the world s
professed admiration for men of letters, and the evil, to them, or
going out of their way to suck the sugar-plums of praise. The
next story, "Irremediable," shows the consequences of marrying a
vulgar and ignorant girl in the hope of improving her, the diffi
culty being that she declines to be improved. The situation is
powerfully described, especially the last scene in the repulsive,
disorderly little home. The most effective touch reveals
Willoughby s constant vexation because his vulgar wife "never
did any one mortal thing efficiently or well," just the opposite of
the constant pleasure that clever active women give us by their
neat and rapid skill. "The Dedication," by Mr. Fred Simpson,
is a dramatic representation of the conflict between ambition and
love not that the love on the man s side is very earnest, or the
conflict in his mind very painful, as ambition wins the day only
too easily when Lucy is thrown over. " The Fool s Hour," by
Mr. Hobbes and Mr. George Moore, is a slight little drama
founded on the idea that youth must amuse itself in its own
way, and cannot be always tied to its mamma s apron-strings. It
is rather French than English in the assumption that youth must
of necessity resort to theatres and actresses. Of the two sketches
by Mr. Harland, that on white mice is clever as a supposed remini
scence of early boyhood, but rather long for its subject, the other,
" A Broken Looking-Glass," is a powerful little picture of the
dismal end of an old bachelor who confesses to himself that his
life has been a failure, equally on the sides of ambition and enjoy
ment. One of my friends tells me that it is impossible for a
bachelor to be happy, yet he may invest money in the Funds ! In
Mr. Crackanthorpe s " Modern Melodrama," he describes ( for us
the first sensations of a girl when she sees death in the near
future. It is pathetic, tragical, life-like in language, with the
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D. 185
defects of character and style that belong to a close representation
of nature. " A Lost Masterpiece," by George Egerton, is not so
interesting as the author s " Keynotes," though it shows the same
qualities of style. The subject is too unfruitful, merely a literary
disappointment, because a bright idea has been chased away.
" A Sentimental Cellar," by Mr. George Saintsbury, written in
imitation of the essayists of the eighteenth century, associates the
wines in a cellar with the loves and friendships of their owner.
Xo others the vinous treasures would be " good wine and nothing
more " ; to their present owner they are " a casket of magic liquors,"
a museum in which he lives over again " the vanished life of the
past." The true French bookless bourgeois often calls his cellar
his bibliothlque^ meaning that he values its lore as preferable to that
of scholarship ; but Mr. Saintsbury s Falernianus associates his
wines with sentiment rather than with knowledge.
On the whole, the literature in the first number of THE
YELLOW BOOK, is adequately representative of the modern English
literary mind, both in the observation of reality and in style. It
is, as I say, really literature and not letterpress. I rather regret,
for my own part, the general brevity of the pieces which restricts
them to the limits of the sketch, especially as the stories cannot be
continued after the too long interval of three months. As to this,
the publishers know their own business best, and are probably
aware that the attention of the general public, though easily
attracted, is even more easily fatigued.
1 86 The Yellow Book
II The Illustrations
ON being asked to undertake the second part of this critical
article, I accepted because one has so rarely an opportunity of
saying anything about works of art to which the reader can quite
easily refer. Xo review an exhibition of pictures in London or Paris
is satisfactory only when the writer imagines himself to be address
ing readers who have visited it, and are likely to visit it again.
When an illustration appears in one of the art periodicals, it may
be accompanied by a note that adds something to its interest, but
no one expects such a note to be really critical. In the present
instance, on the contrary, we are asked to say what we think,
without reserve, and as we have had nothing to do with the choice
of the contributors, and have not any interest in the sale of the
periodical, there is no reason why we should not.
To begin with the cover. The publishers decided not to have
any ornament beyond the decorative element in the figure design
which is to be changed for every new number. What is per
manent in the design remains, therefore, of an extreme simplicity
and does not attract attention. The yellow colour adopted is
glaring, and from the aesthetic point of view not so good as a quiet
mixed tint might have been ; however, it gives a title to the
publication and associates itself so perfectly with the title that it
has a sufficient raison d etre, whilst it contrasts most effectively
with black. Though white is lighter than any yellow, it has not the
same active and stimulating quality. The drawing of the masquers
is merely one of Mr. Aubrey Beardsley s fancies and has no par
ticular signification. We see a plump and merry lady laughing
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D. 187
boisterously whilst she seems to be followed by a man who gazes
intently upon the beauties of her shoulder. It is not to be classed
amongst the finest of Mr. Beardsley s designs, but it shows some
of his qualities, especially his extreme economy of means. So does
the smaller drawing on the back or the volume, which is a fair
example of his ready and various invention. See how the candle-
flame is blown a little to one side, how the candle gutters on that
side, and how the smoke is affected by the gust of air. Observe,
too, the contrasts between the faces, not that they are attractive
faces. There seems to be a peculiar tendency in Mr. Beardsley s
mind to the representation of types without intellect and without
morals. Some of the most dreadful faces in all art are to be found
in the illustrations (full of exquisite ornamental invention) to Mr.
Oscar Wilde s " Salome." We have two unpleasant ones here in
" 1 Education Sentimentale." There is distinctly a sort of corrup
tion in Mr. Beardsley s art so far as its human element is concerned,
but not at all in its artistic qualities, which show the perfection of
discipline, of self-control, and of thoughtful deliberation at the very
moment of invention. Certainly he is a man of genius, and
perhaps, as he is still very young, we may hope that when he has
expressed his present mood completely, he may turn his thoughts
into another channel and see a better side of human life. There
is, of course, nothing to be said against the lady who is touching
the piano on the title-page of THE YELLOW BOOK, nor against
the portrait of Mrs. Patrick Campbell opposite page 126, except
that she reminds one of a giraffe. It is curious how the idea of
extraordinary height is conveyed in this drawing without a single
object for comparison. I notice in Mr. Beardsley s work a persistent
tendency to elongation ; for instance, in the keys of the piano on
the title-page which in their perspective look fifteen inches long.
He has a habit, too, of making faces small and head-dresses enor
The Yellow Book
mous. The rarity of beauty in his faces seems in contradiction
with his exquisite sense of beauty in curving lines, and the
singular grace as well as rich invention of his ornaments. He
can, however, refuse himself the pleasure of such invention when
he wants to produce a discouraging effect upon the mind. See,
for instance, the oppressive plainness of the architecture in the
background to the dismal " Night Piece."
It is well known that the President of the Royal Academy,
unlike most English painters, is in the habit of making studies.
In his case these studies are uniformly in black and white chalk on
brown paper. Two of them are reproduced in THE YELLOW
BOOK, one being for drapery, and the other for the nude form
moving in a joyous dance with a light indication of drapery that
conceals nothing. The latter is a rapid sketch of an intention and
is full of life both in attitude and execution, the other is still and
statuesque. Sir Frederic is a model to all artists in one very rare
virtue, that of submitting himself patiently, in his age, to the same
discipline which strengthened him in youth.
I find a curious and remarkable drawing by Mr. Pennell of that
strangely romantic place Le Puy en Velay, whose rocks are crowned
with towers or colossal statues, whilst houses cluster at their feet.
The subject is dealt with rather in the spirit of Diirer, but with a
more supple and more modern kind of skill. It is topography,
though probably with considerable artistic liberty. I notice one
of Diirer s licences in tonic relations. The sky, though the sun is
setting (or rising) is made darker than the hills against it, and
darker even than the two remoter masses of rock which come
between us and the distance. The trees, too, are shaded capri
ciously, some poplars in the middle distance being quite dark whilst
nearer trees are left without shade or local colour. In a word,
the tonality is simply arbitrary, and in this kind of drawing it
By Philip Gilbert Hamerton, LL.D. i
matters very little. Mr. Pennell has given us a delightful bit of
artistic topography showing the strange beauty of a place that he
always loves and remembers.
Mr. Sickert contributed two drawings. " The Old Oxford
Music Hall" has some very good qualities, especially the most
important quality of all, that of making us feel as if we were
there. The singer on the stage (whose attitude has been very
closely observed) is strongly lighted by convergent rays. According
to my recollection the rays themselves are much more visible in
reality than they are here, but it is possible that the artist may
have intentionally subdued their brightness in order to enhance
that of the figure itself. The musicians and others are good,
except that they are too small, if the singing girl (considering her
distance) is to be taken as the standard of comparison. The
pen-sketch of "A Lady Reading" is not so satisfactory. I know,
of course, that it is offered only as a very slight and rapid sketch,
and that it is impossible, even for a Rembrandt, to draw accurately
in a hurry, but there is a formlessness in some important parts of
this sketch (the hands, for instance) which makes it almost without
interest for me. It is essentially painter s pen work, and does not
show any special mastery of pen and ink.
The very definite pen-drawing by Mr. Housman called "The
Reflected Faun " is open to the objection that the reflections in
the water are drawn with the same hardness as the birds and faun
in the air. The plain truth is that the style adopted, which in its
own way is as legitimate as any other, does not permit the artist to
represent the natural appearance of water. This kind of pen-
drawing is founded on early wood-engraving which filled the whole
space with decorative work, even to the four corners.
Mr. Rothenstein is a modern of the moderns. His two slight
portrait-sketches are natural and easy, and there is much life in the
190 The Yellow Book
" Portrait of a Gentleman." The " Portrait of a Lady," by Mr.
Furse, is of a much higher order. It has a noble gravity, and it
shows a severity of taste not common in the portraiture of our
time ; it is essentially a distinguished work. Mr. Nettleship gives
us an ideal portrait of Minos, not in his earthly life, as king of
Crete, but in his infernal capacity as supreme judge of the dead.
The face is certainly awful enough and implacable ;
Stavvi Minos orribilmente, e ringhia :
Esamina le colpe nell entrata ;
Giudica e manda, secondo ch avvinghia.
The book-plate designed by Mr. Beardsley for Dr. Propert has
the usual qualities of the inventor. It seems to tell a tale of hope
less love. The other book-plate, by Mr. Aiming Bell, is remark
able for its pretty and ingenious employment of heraldry which
so easily becomes mechanical when the draughtsman is not an
On the whole, these illustrations decidedly pre-suppose real
artistic culture in the public. They do not condescend in any
way to what might be guessed at as the popular taste. I notice
that the Editor and Publishers have a tendency to look to young
men of ability for assistance in their enterprise, though they accept
the criticism of those who now belong to a preceding generation.
Portrait of Henry James
By John S. Sargent, A.R.A.
By Ronald Campbell Macfie
"In the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart "
UNWORTHY ! yea,
So high thou art above me
I hardly dare to love thee,
But kneel and lay
All homage and all worship at thy feet,
lady sweet !
Yet dreams are strong :
Their wordless wish suffices
To win them Paradises
Of sun and song.
Delight our waking life can never know
The dreams bestow.
And in a dream,
Dupe of its bold beguiling,
1 watch thy blue eyes smiling ;
I see them gleam
With love the waking moments have forbidden,
And veiled and hidden.
O brave deceit !
In dreams thy glad eyes glisten,
In dreams I lie and listen
Thy bosom beat,
Hiving hot lips among thy temple-hair,
lady fair !
And tho I live,
Dreaming in such fair fashion,
1 think, in thy compassion,
Thou wilt forgive,
Since I but dream, and since my heart will ache
When I awake.
By Dauphin Meunier
A FABULOUS being, in an everyday human form ; a face, not
beautiful, scarcely even pretty, which looks upon the world
with an air at once ironical and sympathetic ; a brow that grows
broader or narrower according to the capricious invasions of her
aureole of hair; an odd little nose, perked heavenward; two
roguish eyes, now blue, now black ; the rude accents of a street-
girl, suddenly changing to the well-bred murmuring of a great
lady ; abrupt, abundant gestures, eloquently finishing half-spoken
sentences ; a supple neck a slender, opulent figure a dainty foot,
that scarcely touches the earth and yet can fly amazingly near
the ceiling ; lips, nervous, senuous, trembling, curling ; a frock,
simple or sumptuous, bought at a bargain or created by a Court-
dressmaker, which expresses, moulds, completes, and sometimes
almost unveils the marvellous creature it envelops ; a gay, a grave
demeanour ; grace, wit, sweetness, tartness ; frivolity and earnest
ness, tenderness and indifference ; beauty without beauty, im
morality without evil : a nothing capable of everything : such is
Woman at Paris : such is the Parisienne : and Madame Rejane is
the Parisienne, is all Parisiennes, incarnated.
What though our Parisienne be the daughter of a hall-porter,
what though she be a maid-servant, a courtesan, or an arch-duchess,
198 Madame Rejane
she goes everywhere, she is the equal of every one, she knows or
divines everything. No need for her to learn good manners, nor
bad ones : she s born with both. According to the time or place,
she will talk to you of politics, of art, of literature of dress, trade,
cookery of finance, of socialism, of luxury, of starvation with the
patness, the sure touch, the absolute sincerity, of one who has seen
all, experienced all, understood all. She s as sentimental as a song,
wily as a diplomate, gay as folly, or serious as a novel by Zola.
What has she read ? Where was she educated ? Who cares ?
Her book of life is Paris ; she knows her Paris by heart ; and
whoso knows Paris can dispense with further knowledge. She
adores originality and novelty, but she can herself transmute the
commonplace into the original, the old into the new. Whatever
she touches forthwith reflects her own animation, her mobility, her
elusive charm. Flowers have no loveliness until she has grouped
them ; colours are colourless unless they suit her complexion.
Delicately fingering this or that silken fabric, she decrees which
shall remain in the darkness of the shops, which shall become the
fashion of the hour. She crowns the poet, sits to the painter,
inspires the sculptor, lends her voice to the musician ; and not
one of these artists can pretend to talent, if it be her whim to
deny it him. She awards fame and wealth, success and failure,
according to her pleasure.
Madame Rejane the Parisienne : they are interchangeable
terms. Whatever role she plays absorbs the attention of all Paris.
Hearken, then, good French Provincials, who would learn the
language of the Boulevards in a single lesson ; hearken, also, ye
children of other lands who are eager for our pleasures, and
curious about our tastes and manners ; hearken all people, men
and women, who care, for once in a way, to behold what of all
Parisian things is most essentially Parisian : Go and see Rejane.
By Dauphin Meunier 199
Don t go to the Op6ra, where the music is German ; nor to the
Opra-Comique, where it is Italian ; nor yet to the Comdie-
Franfaise, where the sublime is made ridiculous, and the heroes
and heroines of Racine take on the attitudes of bull-fighters and
cigarette-makers ; nor to the Oddon, nor to the Palais-Royal, nor
here, nor there, nor elsewhere : go and see Re"jane. Be she at
London, Chicago, Brussels, St. Petersburg Rejane is Paris. She
carries the soul of Paris with her, wheresoever she listeth.
A Parisienne, she was born in Paris ; an actress, she is the
daughter of an actor, and the niece of Madame Aptal-Arnault,
sometime pennonnalre of the Comedie-Francaise. Is it a sufficent
pedigree ? Her very name is suggestive ; it seems to share in the
odd turn of her wit, the sauciness of her face, the tang of her
voice ; for Rdjane s real name is Reju. Doesn t it sound like a
nick-name, especially invented for this child of the greenroom ?
" Re"jane " calls up to us the fanciful actress fanciful, but
studious, conscientious, impassioned for her art ; " Madame
Rejane" has rather a grand air; but R6ju makes such a funny
face at her.
I picture to myself the little Reju, scarcely out of her cradle,
but already cunningly mischievous, fired with an immense curiosity
about the world behind the scenes, and dreaming of herself as
leading lady. She hears of nothing, she talks of nothing, but the
Theatre. And presently her inevitable calling, her manifest destiny,
takes its first step towards realisation. She is admitted into the
class of Regnier, the famous socihaire of the Thdatre-Francais.
Thenceforth the pupil makes steady progress. In 1873, at the
age of fifteen, she obtains an honourable mention for comedy at
the Conservatoire ; the following year she divides a second prize
with Mademoiselle Samary. But what am I saying ? Only a
second prize ? Let us see.
2OO Madame Rejane
To-day, as then, though twenty years have passed, there is no
possibility of success, no chance of getting an engagement, for a
pupil on leaving the Conservatoire, unless a certain all-powerful
critic, supreme judge, arbiter beyond appeal, sees fit to pronounce
a decision confirming the verdict of the Examining Jury. This
extraordinary man holds the future of each candidate in the palm
of his fat and heavy hand. Fame and fortune are contained in
his inkstand, and determined by his articles. He is both Pope
and King. The Jury proposes, he disposes. The Jury reigns,
he governs. He smiles or frowns, the Jury bows its head. The
pupils tremble before their Masters ; the Masters tremble before
this monstrous Fetich, for the Public thinks with him and by
him, and sees only through his spectacles ; and no star can shine
till his short sight has discovered it.
This puissant astronomer is Monsieur Francisque Sarcey.
Against his opinion the newspapers can raise no voice, for he
alone edits them all. He writes thirty articles a day, each of
which is thirty times reprinted, thrice thirty times quoted from.
He is, as it were, the Press in person. And presently the
momentous hour arrived when the delicate and sprightly pupil of
Regnier was to appear before this enormous and somnolent mass,
and to thrill it with pleasure. For Monsieur Sarcey smiled upon
and applauded Rejane s debut at the Conservatoire. He conse
crated to her as many as fifty lines of intelligent criticism ; and I
pray Heaven they may be remembered to his credit on the Day
of Judgment. Here they are, in that twopenny-halfpenny style
of his, so dear to the readers of Le Temps.
" I own that, for my part, I should have willingly awarded to the
latter (Mademoiselle Rejane) a first prize. It seems to me that she
deserved it. But the Jury is frequently influenced by extrinsic and
By Dauphin Meunier 201
private motives, into which it is not permitted to pry. A first prize
carries with it the right of entrance into the Comedie Franchise ; and
the Jury did not think Mademoiselle Rejane, with her little wide
awake face, suited to the vast frame of the House of Moliere, That
is well enough ; but the second prize, which it awarded her, authorises
the Director of the Odeon to receive her into his Company ; and that
perspective alone ought to have sufficed to dissuade the Jury from the
course it took Every one knows that at present the Odeon is,
for a beginner, a most indifferent school Instead of shoving its
promising pupils into it by the shoulders, the Conservatoire should
forbid them to approach it, lest they should be lost there. What will
Mademoiselle Rejane do at the Odeon ? Show her legs in La Jeunesse
de Louis XI f,, which is to be revived at the opening of the season !
A pretty state of things. She must either go to the Vaudeville or to
the Gymnase. It is there that she will form herself; it is there that
she will learn her trade, show what she is capable of, and prepare
herself for the Comedie Fran$aise, if she is ever to enter it She
recited a fragment from Les Trots Sultanes .... I was delighted by
her choice. The Trots Sultanes is so little known nowadays
What wit there is in her look, her smile ! With her small eyes,
shrewd and piercing, with her little face thrust forward, she has so
knowing an air, one is inclined to smile at the mere sight of her. Does
she perhaps show a little too much assurance ? What of it ? Tis the
result of excessive timidity. But she laughs with such good grace, she
has so fresh and true a voice, she articulates so clearly, she seems so
happy to be alive and to have talent, that involuntarily one thinks of
Chenier s line :
Sa bienvenue au jour lui rlt dans tous les yeux.
.... I shall be surprised if she does not make her way."
Praised be Sarcey ! That was better than a second prize for
Rejane. The Oracle gave her the first, without dividing it. She
The Yellow Book Vol. II. M got
202 Madame Rejane
got an immediate engagement ; and in March, 1875, appeared
on that stage where to-day she reigns supreme, the Vaudeville,
to which she brought back the vaudeville that was no longer
played there. She began by alienating the heart of Alphonse
Daudet, who, while recognising her clever delivery, found fault
with her unemotional gaiety ; but, in compensation, another
authoritative critic, Auguste Vitu, wrote, after the performance
of Pierre : " Mademoiselle Reiane showed herself full of grace
and feeling. She rendered Gabrielle s despair with a naturalness,
a brilliancy, a spontaneity, which won a most striking success."
Shall I follow her through each of her creations, from her dbut
in La Revuf des Dcux-Mondes, up to her supreme triumph in
.? dame Bans-Gene ? Shall I show her as the sly soubrette in
Fanny Lear ? as the woman in love, " whose ignorance divines all
things," in Madame LIU? as the comical Marquise de Menu-
Castel in Le f ergla; ? Shall I tell of her first crowning success,
when she played Gabrielle in Pi. Shall I recall her stormy
interpretation of Madame de Librae, in Le Ciur r and her dramatic
conception of the part of Ida r which quite reversed the previous
iudgments of her critics, wringing praise from her enemy Dauc I
and censure from her faithful admirer Vitu. The natural order
of things, however, was re-established by her performance of -
Tapageurs ; again Daudet found her cold and lacking in tender
ness : and Vitu again applauded.
Her successes at the Vaudeville extend from 1875 to 1882 ; and
towards the end of that period, Rejane, always rising higher in
her art, created Anita in VAurhh, and the Baronne d Oria in
:ttc. Next, forgetting her own traditions, she appeared at the
Theatre des Panoramas, and at the An -. . here she gave a
splendid interpretation of Madame Cezambre in Richepin s La
Giu j and at Les Varietes as Adrienne in Me Can.. Now
By Dauphin Meunier 203
fickle, now constant to her first love, she alternated between
the Varietes and the Vaudeville ; took an engagement at the
Ode"on ; assisted at the birth and death of the Grand-Theltre ;
and just lately the Vaudeville has won her back once more.
Amidst these perambulations, Rejane played the diva in Clara
Soldi. The following year she had to take two different parts in
the same play, those of Gabrielle and Clicquette in Les Demoiselles
Clochart. Gabrielle is a cold and positive character ; Clicquette a
gay and mischievous one. Rdjane kept them perfectly distinct,
and without the smallest apparent effort. In 1887, she telephoned
in Allo-AHo^ and represented so clearly, by means of clever mimicry,
the absurd answers of the apparatus, that from the gallery to the
stalls the theatre was one roar of laughter and applause ; I fancy the
salvoes and broadsides must still sometimes echo in her delicate ears.
Re"jane s part in M. de Moral should not be forgotten ; nor above
all, the inimitable perfection of her play in Decore (1888). Sarcey s
exultation knew no bounds when, in 1890, she again appeared
in this role. Time, that had metamorphosed the lissom critic of
1875 into a round and inert mass of solid flesh, cruel Father
Time, gave back to Sarcey, for this occasion only, a flash of youthful
fire, which stirred his wits to warmth and animation. He shouted
out hardly articulate praise ; he literally rolled in his stall with
pleasure ; his bald head blushed like an aurora borealis. " Look
at her ! " he cried, " see her malicious smiles, her feline graces,
listen to her reserved and biting diction ; she is the very essence
of the Parisienne ! What an ovation she received ! How they
applauded her ! and how she played ! " From M. Sarcey the
laugh spreads ; it thaws the scepticism of M. Jules Lemaitre,
engulfs the timidity of the public, becomes unanimous and
universal, and is no longer to be silenced.
In 1888, M. Edmond de Goncourt entrusted Rejane with the
204 Madame Rejane
part of Germinie Lacerteux. On the first night, a furious battle
against the author was waged in the house. Rejane secured the
victory sans peur et sans reproches.
Everything in her inspires the certitude of success ; her
voice aims at the heart, her gestures knock at it. Rejane
confides all to the hazard of the dice ; her sudden attacks are
of the most dare-devil nature ; and no matter how risky, how
dangerous, how extravagant the jump, she never loses her
footing ; her play is always correct, her handling sure, her
coolness imperturbable. It was impossible to watch her precipi
tate herself down the staircase in La Glu without a tremble.
And fifteen years before Yvette Guilbert, it was Rejane who first
had the audacity to sing with a voice that was no voice, making
wit and gesture more than cover the deficiency. In Ma Cousine,
Rejane introduced on the boards of Les Varietes a bit of dancing
such as one sees at the Elysee-Montmartre ; she seized on and
imitated the grotesque effrontery of Mademoiselle Grille-d Egout,
and her little arched foot flying upwards, brushed a kiss upon the
forehead of her model ; for Rejane the " grand ecart " may be
fatal, perhaps, but it is neither difficult nor terrifying.
Once more delighting us with Marquise in 1889 ; playing with
such child-like grace the Candidate in Brevet Superieur in 1891 ;
immediately afterwards she took a part \nAmoureuse at the Odon.
The subject is equivocal, the dialogue smutty. Rejane extenuated
nothing ; on the contrary, accentuated things, and yet knew
always how to win her pardon.
Now, it so happened that in 1882, after having personified the
Moulin-Rouge in Les Varietes de Paris, Rejane was married on
the stage, in La Nuit de Notes de P. L. M., to P. L. Moriseau.
On the anniversary day, ten years later, her marriage took place in
good earnest, before a real M. le Maire, and according to all legal
By Dauphin Meunier 205
formalities, with M. Porel, a sometime actor, an ex-director of
the Odeon, then director of the Grand-Theatre, and co-director
to-day of the Vaudeville But to return to her art.
Just as the first dressmakers of Paris measure Rejane s fine
figure for the costumes of her various roles, so the best writers of
the French Academy now make plays to her measure. They
take the size of her temperament, the height of her talent, the
breadth of her play ; they consider her taste, they flatter her
mood ; they clothe her with the richest draperies she can covet.
Their imagination, their fancy, their cleverness, are all put at her
service. The leaders in this industry have hitherto been Messrs.
Meilhac and Halevy, but now M. Victorien Sardou is ruining
them. Madame Sam-Gene is certainly, of all the roles Rdjane has
played, that best suited to bring out her manifold resources. It
is not merely that Rejane plays the washerwoman, become a great
lady, without blemish or omission ; she is Madame Sans-Gene her
self, with no overloading, nothing forced, nothing caricatured. It
is portraiture ; history.
Many a time has Rejane appeared in cap, cotton frock, and
white apron ; many a time in robes of state, glittering with
diamonds ; she has worn the buskin or the sock, demeaned herself
like a gutter heroine, or dropped the stately curtsey of the high
born lady. But never, except in Madame Sans-Gene, has she
been able to bring all her roles into one focus, exhibit her whole
wardrobe, and yet remain one and the same person, compress into
one evening the whole of her life.
The seekers after strange novelties, the fanatics for the
mists of the far north, the vague, the irresolute, the restless,
will not easily forget the Ibsenish mask worn by Rdjane in
Nora of The Doll s House; although most of us, loving Rejane
for herself, probably prefer to this vacillating creation, the
206 Madame Rejane
firm drawing, the clear design, the strong, yet supple lines of
Why has Rejane no engagement at the Comedie-Frangaise ?
Whom does one go to applaud on this stage, called the first in
France, and from which Rejane, Sarah Bernhardt, and Coquelin
the elder, all are absent ? I will explain the matter in two words.
The house of Moliere, for many years now, has belonged to
Moliere no more. Were Moliere to come to life again, neither
he nor Rejane would go to eat their hearts out, with inaction and
dulness, beneath the wings of M. Jules Claretie although he is,
of course, a very estimable gentleman. Were Rejane unmarried,
Moliere to-day would enter into partnership with her, because
she is in herself the entire Comedie-Frangaise. I have already
said she is married to M. Porel, director of the Vaudeville, where
she reigns as Queen. I am quite unable to see any reason why
she should soon desert such a fortunate conjugal domicile.
Notwithstanding the dryness and the rapidity of this enumera
tion of Rejane s roles, I hope to have given some general idea of
the marvellous diversity and flexibility of her dramatic spirit and
temperament ; it seems to me that the most searching criticism of
her various creations, would not greatly enhance the accuracy of
the picture. This is why I make no attempt to describe her in
some three or four parts of an entirely different character. Besides,
I should have to draw on hearsay ; and I desire to trust only to
my own eyes, my own heart. Needless to say, I have not
had the good luck to see Madame Rejane in each of her
characterisations since her first appearance. Her youthful air has
never changed j but I have only had the opportunity of admiring
it during the last few years. I confidently maintain, however,
that she could not have been more charning in 1875 than she is
to-day, with the devil in her body, heaven in her eyes.
A Girl Resting
By Sydney Adamson
The Roman Road
By Kenneth Grahame
A,L the roads of our neighbourhood were cheerful and friendly,
having each of them pleasant qualities of its own ; but this
one seemed different from the others in its masterful sugges
tion of a serious purpose, speeding you along with a strange up
lifting of the heart. The others tempted chiefly with their
treasures of hedge and ditch ; the rapt surprise of the first lords-
and-ladies, the rustle of a field-mouse, splash of a frog ; while cool
noses of brother-beasts were pushed at you through gate or gap.
A loiterer you had need to be, did you choose one of them ; so
many were the tiny hands thrust out to detain you, from this side
and that. But this other was of a sterner sort, and even in its
shedding off of bank and hedgerow as it marched straight and full
for the open downs, it seemed to declare its contempt for adventi
tious trappings to catch the shallow-pated. When the sense of
injustice or disappointment was heavy on me, and things were very
black within, as on this particular day, the road of character was
my choice for that solitary ramble when I turned my back for an
afternoon on a world that had unaccountably declared itself against
"The Knight s Road" we children had named it, from a sort
of feeling that, if from any quarter at all, it would be down this
212 The Roman Road
track we might some day see Lancelot and his peers come pacing
on their great war-horses ; supposing that any of the stout band
still survived, in nooks and unexplored places. Grown-up people
sometimes spoke of it as the " Pilgrim s Way " ; but I didn t know
much about pilgrims except Walter in the Horselburg story.
Him I sometimes saw, breaking with haggard eyes out of yonder
copse, and calling to the pilgrims as they hurried along on their
desperate march to the Holy City, where peace and pardon were
awaiting them. " All roads lead to Rome," I had once heard
somebody say ; and I had taken the remark very seriously, of
course, and puzzled over it many days. There must have been
some mistake, I concluded at last ; but of one road at least I
intuitively felt it to be true. And my belief was clinched by
something that fell from Miss Smedley during a history-lesson,
about a strange road that ran right down the middle of England
till it reached the coast, and then began again in France, just
opposite, and so on undeviating, through city and vineyard, right
from the misty Highlands to the Eternal City. Uncorroborated,
any statement of Miss Smedley s usually fell on incredulous ears ;
but here, with the road itself in evidence, she seemed, once in a
way, to have strayed into truth.
Rome ! It was fascinating to think that it lay at the other end
of this white ribbon that rolled itself off from my feet over the
distant downs. I was not quite so uninstructed as to imagine I
could reach it that afternoon ; but some day, I thought, if things
went on being as unpleasant as they were now some day, when
Aunt Eliza had gone on a visit we would see.
I tried to imagine what it would be like when I got there.
The Coliseum I knew, of course, from a woodcut in the history-
book : so to begin with I plumped that down in the middle. The
rest had to be patched up from the little grey market-town where
By Kenneth Grahame 213
twice a year we went to have our hair cut ; hence, in the result,
Vespasian s amphitheatre was approached by muddy little streets,
wherein the Red Lion and the Blue Boar, with Somebody s Entire
along their front, and " Commercial Room " on their windows ;
the doctor s house, of substantial red-brick ; and the facade of the
new Wesleyan chapel, which we thought very fine, were the
chief architectual ornaments : while the Roman populace pottered
about in smocks and corduroys, twisting the tails of Roman calves
and inviting each other to beer in musical Wessex. From Rome
I drifted on to other cities, dimly heard of Damascus, Brighton,
(Aunt Eliza s ideal), Athens, and Glasgow, whose glories the
gardener sang ; but there was a certain sameness in my conception
of all of them : that Wesleyan chapel would keep cropping up
everywhere. It was easier to go a-building among those dream-
cities where no limitations were imposed, and one was sole
architect, with a free hand. Down a delectable street of cloud-
built palaces I was mentally pacing, when I happened upon
He was seated at work by the roadside, at a point whence the
cool large spaces of the downs, juniper-studded, swept grandly west
wards. His attributes proclaimed him of the artist tribe : besides,
he wore knickerbockers like myself. I knew I was not to bother
him with questions, nor look over his shoulder and breathe in his
ear they didn t like it, this genus irritabile , but there was nothing
about staring in my code of instructions, the point having somehow
been overlooked : so, squatting down on the grass, I devoted myself
to a passionate absorbing of every detail. At the end of five
minutes there was not a button on him that I could not have
passed an examination in ; and the wearer himself of that home
spun suit was probably less familiar with its pattern and texture
than I was. Once he looked up, nodded, half held out his tobacco
214 The Roman *Road
pouch, mechanically as it were, then, returning it to his pocket,
resumed his work, and I my mental photography.
After another five minutes or so had passed he remarked, without
looking my way: "Fine afternoon we re having: going far to
day ? "
" No, I m not going any farther than this," I replied : " I was
thinking of going on to Rome : but I ve put it off."
" Pleasant place, Rome," he murmured: "you ll like it." It
was some minutes later that he added : " But I wouldn t go just
now, if I were you : too jolly hot."
" Ton haven t been to Rome, have you ? " I inquired.
" Rather," he replied briefly : " I live there."
This was too much, and my jaw dropped as I struggled to grasp
the fact that I was sitting there talking to a fellow who lived in
Rome. Speech was out of the question : besides I had other
things to do. Ten solid minutes had I already spent in an ex
amination of him as a mere stranger and artist ; and now the whole
thing had to be done over again, from the changed point of view.
So I began afresh, at the crown of his soft hat, and worked down
to his solid British shoes, this time investing everything with the
new Roman halo ; and at last I managed to get out : "But you
don t really live there, do you ? " never doubting the fact, but
wanting to hear it repeated.
" Well," he said, good-naturedly overlooking the slight rudeness
of my query, " I live there as much as I live anywhere. About
half the year sometimes. I ve got a sort of a shanty there. You
must come and see it some day."
" But do you live anywhere else as well ? " I went on, feeling
the forbidden tide of questions surging up within me.
" O yes, all over the place," was his vague reply. " And I ve
got a diggings somewhere off Piccadilly."
" Where s
By Kenneth Grahame 215
" Where s that ? " I inquired.
" Where s what ? " said he. Oh, Piccadilly ! It s in London."
" Have you a large garden ? " I asked ; " and how many pigs
have you got ? "
"I ve no garden at all," he replied sadly, "and they don t allow
me to keep pigs, though I d like to, awfully. It s very hard."
" But what do .you do all day, then," I cried, " and where do you
go and play, without any garden, or pigs, or things ? :
" When I want to play," he said gravely, " I have to go and
play in the street ; but it s poor fun, I grant you. There s a
goat, though, not far off, and sometimes I talk to him when I m
feeling lonely ; but he s very proud."
" Goats are proud," I admitted. "There s one lives near here,
and if you say anything to him at all, he hits you in the wind with
his head. You know what it feels like when a fellow hits you in
the wind ? "
" I do, well," he replied, in a tone of proper melancholy, and
" And have you been to any other places," I began again
presently, " besides Rome and Piccy-what s-his-name ? "
" Heaps," he said. " I m a sort of Ulysses seen men and cities,
you know. In fact, about the only place I never got to was the
I began to like this man. He answered your questions briefly
and to the point, and never tried to be funny. I felt I could be
confidential with him.
" Wouldn t you like," I inquired, " to find a city without any
people in it at all ?
He looked puzzled. " I m afraid I don t quite understand,"
" I mean," I went on eagerly, " a city where you walk in at the
216 The Roman Road
gates, and the shops are all full of beautiful things, and the houses
furnished as grand as can be, and there isn t anybody there what
ever ! And you go into the shops, and take anything you want
chocolates and magic-lanterns and injirubber balls and there s
nothing to pay ; and you choose your own house and live there
and do just as you like, and never go to bed unless you want
The artist laid down his brush. " That would be a nice city,"
he said. " Better than Rome. You can t do that sort of thing in
Rome or in Piccadilly either. But I fear it s one of the places
I ve never been to."
"And you d ask your friends," I went on, warming to my
subject ; " only those who really like, of course ; and they d each
have a house to themselves there d be lots of houses, and no
relations at all, unless they promised they d be pleasant, and if they
weren t they d have to go."
" So you wouldn t have any relations ? " said the artist. " Well,
perhaps you re right. We have tastes in common, I see."
" I d have Harold," I said reflectively, " and Charlotte. They d
like it awfully. The others are getting too old. Oh ! and Martha
I d have Martha to cook and wash up and do things. You d
like Martha. She s ever so much nicer than Aunt Eliza. She s
my idea of a real lady."
"Then I m sure I should like her," he replied heartily, "and
when I come to what do you call this city of yours ? Nephelo
something, did you say ! "
" I I don t know," I replied timidly. " I m afraid it hasn t
got a name yet."
The artist gazed out over the downs. " The poet says dear
city of Cecrops ; he said softly to himself, " and wilt not thou
say, dear city of Zeus? That s from Marcus Aurelius," he
By Kenneth Grahame 217
went on, turning again to his work. " You don t know him, I
suppose ; you will some day."
Who s he ? " I inquired.
"Oh, just another fellow who lived in Rome," he replied,
"O dear!" I cried, disconsolately. "What a lot of people
seem to live at Rome, and I ve never even been there ! But I
think I d like my city best."
"And so would I," he replied with unction. "But Marcus
Aurelius wouldn t, you know."
" Then we won t invite him," I said : " will we ? "
"7 won t if you won t," said he. And that point being settled,
we were silent for a while.
"Do you know," he said presently, "I ve met one or two
fellows from time to time, who have been to a city like yours
perhaps it was the same one. They won t talk much about it
only broken hints, now and then ; but they ve been there sure
enough. They don t seem to care about anything in particular
and everything s the same to them, rough or smooth ; and sooner
or later they slip off and disappear j and you never see them again.
Gone back, I suppose."
"Of course," said I. "Don t see what they ever came away
for ; 7 wouldn t. To be told you ve broken things when you
haven t, and stopped having tea with the servants in the kitchen,
and not allowed to have a dog to sleep with you. But Pve known
people, too, who ve gone there."
The artist stared, but without incivility.
" Well, there s Lancelot," I went on. " The book says he
died, but it never seemed to read right, somehow. He just went
away, like Arthur. And Crusoe, when he got tired of wearing
clothes and being respectable. And all the nice ~ men in the
218 The Roman Road
stories who don t marry the Princess, cos only one man ever gets
married in a book, you know. They ll be there ! "
" And the men who fail," he said, " who try like the rest, and
toil, and eat their hearts out, and somehow miss or break down
or get bowled over in the melee and get no Princess, nor even a
second-class kingdom some of them ll be there, I hope ? "
" Yes, if you like," I replied, not quite understanding him ;
" if they re friends of yours, we ll ask em, of course."
" What a time we shall have ! " said the artist reflectively ; " and
how shocked old Marcus Aurelius will be ! "
The shadows had lengthened uncannily, a tide of golden haze
began to flood the grey-green surface of the downs, and the artist
put his traps together, preparatory to a move. I felt very low :
we would have to part, it seemed, just as we were getting on so
well together. Then he stood up, and he was very straight and
tall, and the sunset was in his hair and beard as he stood there,
high over me. He took my hand like an equal. " I ve enjoyed
our conversation very much," he said. " That was an interesting
subject you started, and we haven t half exhausted it. We shall
meet again, I hope ? "
" Of course we shall," I replied, surprised that there should be
any doubt about it.
" In Rome perhaps ? " said he.
" Yes, in Rome," I answered; "or Piccy-the-other-place, or
" Or else," said he, " in that other city when we ve found the
way there. And I ll lookout for you, and you ll sing out as soon
as you see me. And we ll go down the street arm-in-arm, and
into all the shops, and then I ll choose my house, and you ll
choose your house, and we ll live there like princes and good
By Kenneth Grahame 219
" Oh, but you ll stay in my house, won t you ? " I cried ; " I
wouldn t ask everybody ; but I ll ask you"
He affected to consider a moment ; then " Right ! " he said :
"I believe you mean it, and I will come and stay with you. I
won t go to anybody else, if they ask me ever so much. And I ll
stay quite a long time, too, and I won t be any trouble."
Upon this compact we parted, and I went down-heartedly from
the man who understood me, back to the house where I never
could do anything right. How was it that everything seemed
natural and sensible to him, which these uncles, vicars, and other
grown-up men took for the merest tomfoolery ? Well, he would
explain this, and many another thing, when we met again. The
Knight s Road ! How it always brought consolation ! Was he
possibly one of those vanished knights I had been looking for so
long ? Perhaps he would be in armour next time why not ?
He would look well in armour, I thought. And I would take
care to get there first, and see the sunlight flash and play on his
helmet and shield, as he rode up the High Street of the Golden
Meantime, there only remained the finding it, an easy matter^
The Yellow Book Vol. II. N
By Walter Sickert
I. The Old Bedford Music Hall
II. Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley
III. Ada Lundberg
By Norman Gale
SHE is mine in the day,
She is mine in the dusk ;
She is virgin as dawn,
And as fragrant as musk.
And the wood on the hill
Is the home where we meet
O, the coming of eve,
It is marvellous sweet !
To my satisfied heart
She has flown like a dove ;
All her kisses are taught
By the wisdom of love.
And whatever my grief
There is healing, and rest,
On the pear-blossom slope
Of her beautiful breast.
Thy Heart s Desire
By Netta Syrett
THE tents were pitched in a little plain surrounded by hills.
Right and left there were stretches of tender vivid green
where the young corn was springing ; further still, on either hand,
the plain was yellow with mustard-flower ; but in the immediate
foreground it was bare and stony. A few thorny bushes pushed
their straggling way through the dry soil, ineffectively as far as
the grace of the landscape was concerned, for they merely served
to emphasise the barren aridness of the land that stretched before
the tents, sloping gradually to the distant hills.
The hills were uninteresting enough in themselves ; they had
no grandeur of outline, no picturesqueness even, though at
morning and evening the sun, like a great magician, clothed them
with beauty at a touch.
They had begun to change, to soften, to blush rose-red in the
evening light, when a woman came to the entrance of the largest
of the tents and looked towards them. She leant against the
support on one side of the canvas flap, and putting back her
head, rested that too against it, while her eyes wandered over the
plain and over the distant hills.
By Netta Syrett 229
She was bareheaded, for the covering of the tent projected a
few feet to form an awning overhead. The gentle breeze which
had risen with sundown, stirred the soft brown tendrils of hair on
her temples, and fluttered .her pink cotton gown a little. She stood
very still, with her arms hanging and her hands clasped loosely in
front of her. There was about her whole attitude an air of
studied quiet which in some vague fashion the slight clasp of her
hands accentuated. Her face, with its tightly, almost rigidly
closed lips, would have been quite in keeping with the impression
of conscious calm which her entire presence suggested, had it not
been that when she raised her eyes a strange contradiction to this
idea was afforded. They were large grey eyes, unusually bright
and rather startling in effect, for they seemed the only live thing
about her. Gleaming from her still set face, there was something
almost alarming in their brilliancy. They softened with a sudden
glow of pleasure as they rested on the translucent green of the
wheat fields under the broad generous sunlight, and then wandered
to where the pure vivid yellow of the mustard-flower spread in
waves to the base of the hills, now mystically veiled in radiance.
She stood motionless watching their melting elusive changes from
palpitating rose to the transparent purple of amethyst. The still
ness of evening was broken by the monotonous, not unmusical
creaking of a Persian wheel at some little distance to the left of
the tent. The well stood in a little grove of trees : between
their branches she could see, when she turned her head, the
coloured saris of the village women, where they stood in groups
chattering as they drew the water, and the little naked brown
babies that toddled beside them or sprawled on the hard ground
beneath the trees. From the village of flat-roofed mud-houses
under the low hill at the back of the tents, other women were
crossing the plain towards the well, their terra-cotta water-jars
230 Thy Heart s Desire
poised easily on their heads, casting long shadows on the sun
baked ground as they came.
Presently, in the distance, from the direction of the sunlit hills
opposite, a little group of men came into sight. Far off, the
mustard-coloured jackets and the red turbans of the orderlies
made vivid splashes of colour on the dull plain. As they came
nearer, the guns slung across their shoulders, the cases of mathe
matical instruments, the hammers and other heavy baggage they
carried for the Sahib, became visible. A little in front, at walking
pace, rode the Sahib himself, making notes as he came in a book
he held before him. The girl at the tent-entrance watched the
advance of the little company indifferently, it seemed ; except for a
slight tightening of the muscles about her mouth, her face
remained unchanged. While he was still some little distance
away, the man with the note-book raised his head and smiled
awkwardly as he saw her standing there. Awkwardness, perhaps,
best describes the whole man. He was badly put together, loose-
jointed, ungainly. The fact that he was tall profited him nothing,
for it merely emphasised the extreme ungracefulness of his figure.
His long pale face was made paler by a shock of coarse, tow-
coloured hair ; his eyes even looked colourless, though they
were certainly the least uninteresting feature of his face, for
they were not devoid of expression. He had a way of slouch
ing when he moved that singularly intensified the general
uncouthness of his appearance. " Are you very tired ? " asked
his wife gently when he had dismounted close to the tent.
The question would have been an unnecessary one had it been
put to her instead of to her husband, for her voice had
that peculiar flat toneless sound for which extreme weariness is
" Well, no, my dear, not very," he replied, drawling out the
By Netta Syrett 231
words with an exasperating air of delivering a final verdict, after
deep reflection on the subject.
The girl glanced once more at the fading colours on the hills.
" Come in and rest," she said, moving aside a little to let him
She stood lingering a moment after he had entered the tent, as
though unwilling to leave the outer air ; and before she turned to
follow him she drew a deep breath, and her hand went for one
swift second to her throat as though she felt stifled.
Later on that evening she sat in her tent sewing by the light
of the lamp that stood on her little table.
Opposite to her, her husband stretched his ungainly length in a
deck-chair, and turned over a pile of official notes. Every now
and then her eyes wandered from the gay silks of the table-cover
she was embroidering to the canvas walls which bounded the
narrow space into which their few household goods were crowded.
Outside there was a deep hush. The silence of the vast empty
plain seemed to work its way slowly, steadily in, towards the little
patch of light set in its midst. The girl felt it in every nerve ; it
was as though some soft-footed, noiseless, shapele.-s creature,
whose presence she only dimly divined, was approaching nearer
nearer. The heavy outer stillness was in some way made more
terrifying by the rustle of the papers her husband was reading, by
the creaking of his chair as he moved, and by the little fidgeting
grunts and half exclamations which from time to time broke from
him. His wife s hand shook at every unintelligible mutter from
him, and the slight habitual contraction between her eyes
All at once she threw her work down on to the table. "For
Heaven s sake please, John, talk ! " she cried. Her eyes, for
232 Thy Heart s Desire
the moment s space in which they met the startled ones of her
husband, had a wild hunted look, but it was gone almost before
his slow brain had time to note that it had been there and was
vaguely disturbing. She laughed a little, unsteadily.
"Did I startle you ? I m sorry. I " she laughed again.
" I believe I m a little nervous. When one is all day alone "
She paused without finishing the sentence. The man s face
changed suddenly. A wave of tenderness swept over it, and at
the same time an expression of half-incredulous delight shone in
his pale eyes.
" Poor little girl, are you really lonely ?" he said. Even the
real feeling in his tone failed to rob his voice of its peculiarly
irritating grating quality. He rose awkwardly and moved to his
wife s side.
Involuntarily she shrank a little, and the hand which he had
stretched out to touch her hair sank to his side. She recovered
herself immediately and turned her face up to his, though she did
not raise her eyes ; but he did not kiss her. Instead, he stood in
an embarrassed fashion a moment by her side, and then went back
to his seat.
There was silence again for some time. The man lay back in
his chair, gazing at his big clumsy shoes, as though he hoped for
some inspiration from that quarter, while his wife worked with
" Don t let me keep you from reading, John," she said, and her
voice had regained its usual gentle tone.
" No, my dear ; I m just thinking of something to say to you,
but T don t seem "
She smiled a little. In spite of herself, her lip curled faintly.
" Don t worry about it it was stupid of me to expect it. I
mean " she added hastily, immediately repenting the sarcasm.
By Netta Syrett 233
She glanced furtively at him, but his face was quite unmoved.
Evidently he had not noticed it, and she smiled faintly again.
"Oh, Kathie, I knew there was something I d forgotten to tell
you, my dear; there s a man coming down here. I don t know
She looked up sharply. " A man coming here ? What for ? "
she interrupted breathlessly.
"Sent to help me about this oil-boring business, my dear."
He had lighted his pipe, and was smoking placidly, taking long
whiffs between his words.
" Well ? " impatiently questioned his wife, fixing her bright
eyes on his face.
Well that s all, my dear."
She checked an exclamation. " But don t you know anything
about him his name ? where he comes from ? what he is like ?"
She was leaning forward against the table, her needle with a long
end of yellow silk drawn halfway through her work, held in her
upraised hand, her whole attitude one of quivering excitement and
The man took his pipe from his mouth deliberately, with a look
of slow wonder.
" Why Kathie, you seem quite anxious. I didn t know you d be
so interested, my dear. Weil," another long pull at his pipe
" his name s Brook Brookfield, I think." He paused again.
" This pipe don t draw well a bit ; there s something wrong with
it, I shouldn t wonder," he added, taking it out and examining
the bowl as though struck with the brilliance of the idea.
The woman opposite put down her work and clenched her
hands under the table.
"Go on, John," she said presently in a tense vibrating voice
* his name is Brookfield. Well, where does he come from ? "
234 Thy Heart s Desire
"Straight from home, my dear, I believe." He fumbled in his
pocket, and after some time extricated a pencil with which he
began to poke the tobacco in the bowl in an ineffectual aimless
fashion, becoming completely engrossed in the occupation appa
rently. There was another long pause. The woman went on
working, or feigning to work, for her hands were trembling a
After some moments she raised her head again. "John, will
you mind attending to me one moment, and answering these
questions as quickly as you can ? " The emphasis on the last
word was so faint as to be almost as imperceptible as the touch or
exasperated contempt which she could not absolutely banish from
Her husband, looking up, met her clear bright gaze and
reddened like a schoolboy.
"Whereabouts from home does he come?" she asked in a
studiedly gentle fashion.
"Well, from London, I think," he replied, almost briskly for
him, though he stammered and tripped over the words. " He s a
University chap ; I used to hear he was clever I don t know
about that, I m sure ; he used to chaff me, I remember, but "
" Chaff you ? You have met him then ?
"Yes, my dear" he was fast relapsing into his slow drawl
again "that is, I went to school with him, but it s a long time
ago. Brookfield yes, that must be his name."
She waited a moment, then "When is he coming? she
" Let me see to-day s "
"Monday" the word came swiftly between her set teeth.
" Ah, yes, Monday well," reflectively, " next Monday, my
By Netta Syrett 235
Mrs. Drayton rose, and began to pace softly the narrow passage
between the table and the tent- wall, her hands clasped loosely
" How long have you known this ? she said, stopping
abruptly. " Oh, John, you needn t consider ; it s quite a simple
question. To-day ? Yesterday ? "
Her foot moved restlessly on the ground as she waited.
" I think it was the day before yesterday," he replied.
"Then why in Heaven s name didn t you tell me before ?"she
broke out fiercely.
" My dear, it slipped my memory. If I d thought you would
be interested "
"Interested?" She laughed shortly. "It is rather interesting
to hear that after six months of this" she made a quick compre
hensive gesture with her hand "one will have some one to
speak to some one. It is the hand of Providence ; it comes just
in time to save me from " She checked herself abruptly.
He sat staring up at her stupidly, without a word.
"It s all right, John," she said, with a quick change of tone,
gathering up her work quietly as she spoke. " I m not mad
yet. You you must get used to these little outbreaks," she
added after a moment, smiling faintly, " and to do me justice, I
don t often trouble you with them, do I ? I m just a little tired,
or it s the heat or something. No don t touch me," she
cried, shrinking back, for he had risen slowly and was coming
She had lost command over her voice, and the shrill note or
horror in it was unmistakable. The man heard it, and shrank in
" I m so sorry, John," she murmured, raising her great bright
eyes to his face. They had not lost their goaded expression,
236 Thy Heart s Desire
though they were full of tears. " I m awfully sorry, but I m
just nervous and stupid, and I can t bear any one to touch me when
I m nervous."
" Here s Broomhurst, my dear ! I made a mistake in his name
after all, I find. I told you Brookfield, I believe, didn t I ? Well,
it isn t Brookfield, he says ; it s Broomhurst."
Mrs. Drayton had walked some little distance across the plain to
meet and welcome the expected guest. She stood quietly waiting
while her husband stammered over his incoherent sentences, and
then put out her hand.
"We are very glad to see you," she said with a quick glance at
the newcomer s face as she spoke.
As they walked together towards the tent, after the first greet
ings, she felt his keen eyes upon her before he turned to her
" I m afraid Mrs. Drayton finds the climate trying ? " he asked.
" Perhaps she ought not to have come so far in this heat ? "
" Kathie is often pale. / You do look white to-day, my dear,"
he observed, turning anxiously towards his wife.
"Do I?" she replied. The unsteadiness of her tone was
hardly appreciable, but it was not lost on Broomhurst s quick
ears. " Oh, I don t think so. I feel very well."
"I ll come and see if they ve fixed you up all right," said
Drayton, following his companion towards the new tent that had
been pitched at some little distance from the large one.
" We shall see you at dinner then ? " Mrs. Drayton observed in
reply to Broomhurst s smile as they parted.
By Netta Syrett 237
She entered the tent slowly, and moving up to the table,
already laid for dinner, began to rearrange the things upon it in a
purposeless mechanical fashion.
After a moment she sank down upon a seat opposite the open
entrance, and put her hand to her head.
"What is the matter with me?" she thought wearily. "All
the week I ve been looking forward to seeing this man any man,
any one to take off the edge of this." She shuddered. Even in
thought she hesitated to analyse the feeling that possessed her.
" Well, he s here, and I think I feel worse" Her eyes
travelled towards the hills she had been used to watch at this
hour, and rested on them with a vague unseeing gaze.
"Tired, Kathie ? A penny for your thoughts, my dear,"
said her husband, coming in presently to find her still sitting
"I m thinking what a curious world this is, and what an
ironical vein of humour the gods who look after it must possess,"
she replied with a mirthless laugh, rising as she spoke.
John looked puzzled.
" Funny my having known Broomhurst before, you mean ? "
he said doubtfully.
"I was fishing down at Lynmouth this time last year,"
Broomhurst said at dinner. "You know Lynmouth, Mrs.
Drayton ? Do you never imagine you hear the gurgling of the
stream ? I am tantalised already by the sound of it rushing
through the beautiful green gloom of those woods aren t they
lovely ? And / haven t been in this burnt-up spot as many hours
as you ve had months of it."
She smiled a little.
"You must learn to possess your soul in patience," she said,
238 Thy Heart s Desire
and glanced inconsequently from Broomhurst to her husband, and
then dropped her eyes and was silent a moment.
John was obviously, and a little audibly, enjoying his dinner.
He sat with his chair pushed close to the table, and his elbows
awkwardly raised, swallowing his soup in gulps. He grasped his
spoon tightly in his bony hand so that its swollen joints stood out
larger and uglier than ever, his wife thought.
Her eyes wandered to Broomhurst s hands. They were well
shaped, and though not small, there was a look of refinement about
them ; he had a way of touching things delicately, a little linger-
ingly, she noticed. There was an air of distinction about his
clear-cut, clean-shaven face, possibly intensified by contrast with
Drayton s blurred features ; and it was, perhaps, also by contrast
with the grey cuffs that showed beneath John s ill-cut drab suit that
the linen Broomhurst wore seemed to her particularly spotless.
Broomhurst s thoughts, for his part, were a good deal occupied
with his hostess.
She was pretty, he thought, or perhaps it was that, with the
wide dry lonely plain as a setting, her fragile delicacy of appear
ance was invested with a certain flower-like charm.
" The silence here seems rather strange, rather appalling at
first, when one is fresh from a town," he pursued, after a
moment s pause, " but I suppose you re used to it ; eh, Drayton ?
How do you find life here, Mrs. Drayton ? " he asked a little
curiously, turning to her as he spoke.
She hesitated a second. " Oh, much the same as I should find
it anywhere else, I expect," she replied ; "after all, one carries the
possibilities of a happy life about with one don t you think so ?
The Garden of Eden wouldn t necessarily make my life any
happier, or less happy, than a howling wilderness like this. It
depends on oneself entirely."
By Netta Syrett 239
" Given the right Adam and Eve, the desert blossoms like the
rose, in fact," Broomhurst answered lightly, with a smiling glance
inclusive of husband and wife ; " you two don t feel as though
you d been driven out of Paradise evidently."
Drayton raised his eyes from his plate with a smile of tota
" Great Heavens ! What an Adam to select ! " thought Broom-
hurst involuntarily, as Mrs. Drayton rose rather suddenly from
" I ll come and help with that packing-case," John said, rising,
in his turn, lumberingly from his place; "then we can have a
smoke eh ? Kathie don t mind, if we sit near the entrance."
The two men went out together, Broomhurst holding the
lantern, for the moon had not yet risen. Mrs. Drayton followed
them to the doorway, and, pushing the looped-up hanging further
aside, stepped out into the cool darkness.
Her heart was beating quickly, and there was a great lump in
her throat that frightened her as though she were choking.
"And I am his wife I belong to him!" she cried, almost
She pressed both her hands tightly against her breast, and set
her teeth, fighting to keep down the rising flood that threatened
to sweep away her composure. " Oh, what a fool I am !
What an hysterical fool of a woman I am ! " she whispered below
her breath. She began to walk slowly up and down outside the
tent, in the space illumined by the lamplight, as though striving
to make her outwardly quiet movements react upon the inward
tumult. In a little while she had conquered ; she quietly entered
the tent, drew a low chair to the entrance, and took up a book,
just as footsteps became audible. A moment afterwards Broom
hurst emerged from the darkness into the circle of light outside,
240 Thy Heart s Desire
and Mrs. Drayton raised her eyes from the pages she was turning
to greet him with a smile.
" Are your things all right ? "
"Oh yes, more or less, thank you. I was a little concerned
about a case of books, but it isn t much damaged fortunately.
Perhaps I ve some you would care to look at ?
" The books will be a godsend," she returned with a sudden
brightening of the eyes ; I was getting desperate for books."
" What are you reading now ? " he asked, glancing at the
volume that lay in her lap.
" It s a Browning. I carry it about a good deal. I think I
like to have it with me, but I don t seem to read it much."
"Are you waiting for a suitable optimistic moment ? " Broom-
hurst inquired smiling.
" Yes, now you mention it, I think that must be why I am
waiting," she replied slowly.
" And it doesn t come even in the Garden of Eden ? Surely
the serpent, pessimism, hasn t been insolent enough to draw you
into conversation with him ? " he said lightly.
"There has been no one to converse with at all when John is
away, I mean. I think I should have liked a little chat with the
serpent immensely by way of a change," she replied in the same
" Ah, yes," Broomhurst said with sudden seriousness, " it must
be unbearably dull for you alone here, with Drayton away all
Mrs. Drayton s hand shook a little as she fluttered a page of her
" I should think it quite natural you would be irritated beyond
endurance to hear that all s right with the world, for instance,
when you were sighing for the long day to pass," he continued.
" I don t
By Netta Syrett 241
" I don t mind the day so much it s the evenings." She
abruptly checked the swift words and flushed painfully. " I mean
I ve grown stupidly nervous, I think even when John is here.
Oh, you have no idea of the awful silence of this place at night,"
she added, rising hurriedly from her low seat, and moving closer to
the doorway. " It is so close, isn t it ? " she said, almost apologeti-
cally. There was silence for quite a minute.
Broomhurst s quick eyes noted the silent momentary clenching
of the hands that hung at her side as she stood leaning against the
support at the entrance.
" But how stupid of me to give you such a bad impression or
the camp the first evening, too," Mrs. Drayton exclaimed
presently, and her companion mentally commended the admirable
composure of her voice.
" Probably you will never notice that it is lonely at all," she
continued, "John likes it here. He is immensely interested in his
work, you know. I hope you are too. If you are interested it
is all quite right. I think the climate tries me a little. I never
used to be stupid and nervous. Ah, here s John ; he s been
round to the kitchen-tent, I suppose."
" Been looking after that fellow cleanin my gun, my dear,"
John explained, shambling towards the deck-chair.
Later, Broomhurst stood at his own tent-door. He looked up
at the star-sown sky, and the heavy silence seemed to press upon
him like an actual, physical burden.
He took his cigar from between his lips presently and looked at
the glowing end reflectively before throwing it away.
" Considering that she has been alone with him here for six
months, she has herself very well in hand wry well in hand," he
The Yellow Book Vol. II. o It
242 Thy Heart s Desire
It was Sunday morning. John Drayton sat just inside the tent,
presumably enjoying his pipe before the heat of the day. His eyes
furtively followed his wife as she moved about near him, some
times passing close to his chair in search of something she had
mislaid. There was colour in her cheeks ; her eyes, though pre
occupied, were bright ; there was a lightness and buoyancy in her
step which she set to a little dancing air she was humming under
After a moment or two the song ceased, she began to move
slowly, sedately ; and as if chilled by a raw breath of air, the light
faded from her eyes, which she presently turned towards her
" Why do you look at me ? " she asked suddenly.
u I don t know, my dear," he began, slowly and laboriously as
was his wont. " I was thinkin how nice you looked jest now
much better you know but somehow " he was taking long
whiffs at his pipe, as usual, between each word, while she stood
patiently waiting for him to finish " somehow, you alter so, my
dear you re quite pale again all of a minute."
She stood listening to him, noticing against her will the more
than suspicion of cockney accent and the thick drawl with which
the words were uttered.
His eyes sought her face piteously. She noticed that too, and
stood before him torn by conflicting emotions, pity and disgust
struggling in a hand-to-hand fight within her.
" Mr. Broomhurst and I are going down by the well to sit ; it s
cooler there. Won t you come ? " she said at last gently.
By Netta Syrett 243
He did not reply for a moment, then he turned his head aside
sharply for him.
" No, my dear, thank you ; I m comfortable enough here," he
She stood over him, hesitating a second, then moved abruptly to
the table, from which she took a book.
He had risen from his seat by the time she turned to go out, and
he intercepted her timorously.
" Kathie, give me a kiss before you go," he whispered hoarsely.
" I I don t often bother you."
She drew her breath in deeply as he put his arms clumsily about
her, but she stood still, and he kissed her on the forehead, and
touched the little wavy curls that strayed across it gently with his
big trembling fingers.
When he released her she moved at once impetuously to the
open doorway. On the threshold she hesitated, paused a moment
irresolutely, and then turned back.
" Shall I Does your pipe want filling, John ? " she asked
" No, thank you, my dear."
"Would you like me to stay, read to you, or anything ?"
He looked up at her wistfully. " N-no, thank you, I m not
much of a reader, you know, my dear somehow."
She hated herself for knowing that there would be a " my dear,"
probably a "somehow " in his reply, and despised herself for the
sense of irritated impatience she felt by anticipation, even before
the words were uttered.
There was a moment s hesitating silence, broken by the sound
of quick firm footsteps without. Broomhurst paused at the
entrance, and looked into the tent.
" Aren t you coming, Drayton ? " he asked, looking first at
Dray ton s
244 Thy Heart s Desire
Drayton s wife and then swiftly putting in his name with a
scarcely perceptible pause. " Too lazy ? But you, Mrs. Dray-
ton ? "
" Yes, I m coming," she said.
They left the tent together, and walked some few steps in silence.
Broomhurst shot a quick glance at his companion s face.
" Anything wrong ? " he asked presently.
Though the words were ordinary enough, the voice in which
they were spoken was in some subtle fashion a different voice from
that in which he had talked to her nearly two months ago, though
it would have required a keen sense of nice shades in sound to
have detected the change.
Mrs. Drayton s sense of niceties in sound was particularly keen,
but she answered quietly, " Nothing, thank you."
They did not speak again till the trees round the stone-well
Broomhurst arranged their seats comfortably beside it.
" Are we going to read or talk ? " he asked, looking up at her
from his lower place.
" Well, we generally talk most when we arrange to read, so
shall we agree to talk to-day for a change, by way of getting some
reading done ? " she rejoined, smiling. " Ton begin."
Broomhurst seemed in no hurry to avail himself of the per
mission, he was apparently engrossed in watching the flecks of
sunshine on Mrs. Drayton s white dress. The whirring of insects,
and the creaking of a Persian wheel somewhere in the neighbour
hood, filtered through the hot silence.
Mrs. Drayton laughed after a few minutes ; there was a touch
of embarrassment in the sound.
" The new plan doesn t answer. Suppose you read as usual,
and let me interrupt, also as usual, after the first two lines."
By Netta Syrett 245
He opened the book obediently, but turned the pages at random.
She watched him for a moment, and then bent a little forward
" It is my turn now," she said suddenly. " Is anything wrong ?"
He raised his head, and their eyes met. There was a pause.
"I will be more honest than you," he returned. "Yes, there is."
" What ? "
" I ve had orders to move on."
She drew back, and her lips whitened, though she kept them
" When do you go ? "
" On Wednesday."
There was silence again ; the man still kept his eyes on her
The whirring of the insects and the creaking of the wheel
had suddenly grown so strangely loud and insistent, that it was in
a half-dazed fashion she at length heard her name " Kathleen ! :
" Kathleen ! " he whispered again hoarsely.
She looked him full in the face, and once more their eyes met
in a long grave gaze.
The man s face flushed, and he half rose from his seat with an
impetuous movement, but Kathleen stopped him with a glance.
"Will you go and fetch my work? I left it in the tent," she
said, speaking very clearly and distinctly ; " and then will you go
on reading ? I will find the place while you are gone."
She took the book from his hand, and he rose and stood before
There was a mute appeal in his silence, and she raised her head
Her face was white to the lips, but she looked at him unflinch
ingly ; and without a word he turned and left her.
Mrs. Dray ton
246 Thy Heart s Desire
Mrs. Drayton was resting in the tent on Tuesday afternoon.
With the help of cushions and some low chairs she had improvised
a couch, on which she lay quietly with her eyes closed. There
was a tenseness, however, in her attitude which indicated that
sleep was far from her.
Her features seemed to have sharpened during the last few days,
and there were hollows in her cheeks. She had been very still for
a long time, but all at once with a sudden movement she turned
her head and buried her face in the cushions with a groan.
Slipping from her place she fell on her knees beside the couch,
and put both hands before her mouth to force back the cry that
she felt struggling to her lips.
For some moments the wild effort she was making for outward
calm, which even when she was alone was her first inst net, strained
every nerve and blotted out sight and hearing, and it was not till
the sound was very near that she was conscious of the ring of
horse s hoofs on the plain.
She raised her head sharply with a thrill of fear, still kneeling,
There was no mistake. The horseman was riding in hot haste,
for the thud of the hoofs followed one another swiftly.
As Mrs. Drayton listened her white face grew whiter, and she
began to tremble. Putting out shaking hands, she raised herself
by the arms of the folding-chair and stood upright.
Nearer and nearer came the thunder of the approaching sound,
mingled with startled exclamations and the noise of trampling feet
from the direction of the kitchen tent.
By Netta Syrett 247
Slowly, mechanically almost, she dragged herself to the entrance,
and stood clinging to the canvas there. By the time she had
reached it, Broomhurst had flung himself from the saddle, and had
thrown the reins to one of the men.
Mrs. Drayton stared at him with wide bright eyes as he hastened
" I thought you you are not " she began, and then her
teeth began to chatter. "I am so cold ! " she said, in a little weak
Broomhurst took her hand, and led her over the threshold back
into the tent.
" Don t be so frightened," he implored ; " I came to tell you
first. I thought it wouldn t frighten you so much as Your
Drayton is very ill. They are bringing him. I "
He paused. She gazed at him a moment with parted lips,
then she broke into a horrible discordant laugh, and stood clinging
to the back of a chair.
Broomhurst started back.
" Do you understand what I mean ? " he whispered. "Kathleen,
for God s sake don t he is dead"
He looked over his shoulder as he spoke, her shrill laughter
ringing in his ears. The white glare and dazzle of the plain
stretched before him, framed by the entrance to the tent ; far off,
against the horizon, there were moving black specks, which he
knew to be the returning servants with their still burden.
They were bringing John Drayton home.
248 Thy Heart s Desire
One afternoon, some months later, Broomhurst climbed the steep
lane leading to the cliffs of a little English village by the sea. He
had already been to the inn, and had been shown by the proprietress
the house where Mrs. Drayton lodged.
"The lady was out, but the gentleman would likely find her if
he went to the cliffs down by the bay, or thereabouts," her land
lady explained, and, obeying her directions, Broomhurst presently
emerged from the shady woodland path on to the hillside over
hanging the sea.
He glanced eagerly round him, and then with a sudden quicken
ing of the heart, walked on over the springy heather to where she
sat. She turned when the rustling his footsteps made through
the bracken was near enough to arrest her attention, and looked
up at him as he came. Then she rose slowly and stood waiting
for him. He came up to her without a word and seized both her
hands, devouring her face with his eyes. Something he saw there
repelled him. Slowly he let her hands fall, still looking at her
silently. " You are not glad to see me, and I have counted the
hours," he said at last in a dull toneless voice.
Her lips quivered. " Don t be angry with me I can t help it
I m not glad or sorry for anything now," she answered, and her
voice matched his for greyness.
They sat down together on a long flat stone half embedded in
a wiry clump of whortleberries. Behind them the lonely hill
sides rose, brilliant with yellow bracken and the purple of heather.
Before them stretched the wide sea. It was a soft grey day.
Streaks of pale sunlight trembled at moments far out on the water.
By Netta Syrett 249
The tide was rising in the little bay above which they sat, and
Broomhurst watched the lazy foam-edged waves slipping over the
uncovered rocks towards the shore, then sliding back as though
for very weariness they despaired of reaching it. The muffled
pulsing sound of the sea filled the silence. Broomhurst thought
suddenly of hot Eastern sunshine, of the whirr of insect wings on the
still air, and the creaking of a wheel in the distance. He turned
and looked at his companion.
" I have come thousands of miles to see you," he said ; " aren t
you going to speak to me now I am here ? "
"Why did you come ? I told you not to come," she answered,
falteringly. " I " she paused.
" And I replied that I should follow you if you remember,"
he answered, still quietly. " I came because I would not listen to
what you said then, at that awful time. You didn t know yourself
what you said. No wonder ! I have given you some months,
and now I have come."
There was silence between them. Broomhurst saw that she
was crying ; her tears fell fast on to her hands, that were clasped in
her lap. Her face, he noticed, was thin and drawn.
Very gently he put his arm round her shoulder and drew her
nearer to him. She made no resistance it seemed that she did
not notice the movement ; and his arm dropped at his side.
" You asked me why I had come ? You think it possible that
three months can change one, very thoroughly, then ? " he said in
a cold voice.
"I not only think it possible, I have proved it," she replied
He turned round and faced her.
" You did love me, Kathleen ! " he asserted ; " you never said
so in words, but I know it," he added fiercely.
250 Thy Heart s Desire
Yes, I did."
" And You mean that you don t now ? "
Her voice was very tired. " Yes I can t help it," she answered,
"it has gone utterly."
The grey sea slowly lapped the rocks. Overhead the sharp
scream of a gull cut through the stillness. It was broken again,
a moment afterwards, by a short hard laugh from the man.
"Don t!" she whispered, and laid a hand swiftly on his arm.
" Do you think it isn t worse for me ? I wish to God I did love
you," she cried passionately. " Perhaps it would make me forget
that to all intents and purposes I am a murderess."
Broomhurst met her wide despairing eyes with an amazement
which yielded to sudden pitying comprehension.
" So that is it, my darling ? You are worrying about that ?
You who were as loyal, as "
She stopped him with a frantic gesture.
" Don t ! don t ! " she wailed. " If you only knew ; let me try
to tell you will you ?" she urged pitifully. "It may be better if
I tell some one if I don t keep it all to myself, and think, and
She clasped her hands tight, with the old gesture he remem
bered when she was struggling for self-control, and waited a
Presently she began to speak in a low hurried tone : " It began
before you came. I know now what the feeling was that I was
afraid to acknowledge to myself. I used to try and smother it,
I used to repeat things to myself all day poems, stupid rhymes
anything to keep my thoughts quite underneath but I hated
John before you came ! We had been married nearly a year then.
I never loved him. Of course you are going to say : Why did
you marry him ? She looked drearily over the placid sea.
By Netta Syrett 251
" Why did I marry him ? I don t know ; for the reason that
hundreds of ignorant inexperienced girls marry, I suppose. My
home wasn t a happy one. I was miserable, and oh, restless.
I wonder if men know what it feels like to be restless ? Some
times I think they can t even guess. John wanted me very badly
nobody wanted me at home particularly. There didn t seem to
be any point in my life. Do you understand ? . . . . Of course
being alone with him in that little camp in that silent plain"
she shuddered " made things worse. My nerves went all to
pieces. Everything he said his voice his accent his walk
the way he ate irritated me so that I longed to rush out some
times and shriek and go mad. Does it sound ridiculous to you
to be driven mad by such trifles ? I only know I used to get up
from the table sometimes and walk up and down outside, with
both hands over my mouth to keep myself quiet. And all the
time I hated myself how I hated myself ! I never had a word
from him that wasn t gentle and tender. I believe he loved the
ground I walked on. Oh, it is awful to be loved like that,
when you " She drew in her breath with a sob. I I it
made me sick for him to come near me to touch me." She
stopped a moment.
Broomhurst gently laid his hand on her quivering one. " Poor
little girl ! " he murmured.
" Then you came," she said, " and before long I had another
feeling to fight against. At first I thought it couldn t be true
that I loved you it would die down. I think I was frightened
at the feeling ; I didn t know it hurt so to love any one."
Broomhurst stirred a little. " Go on," he said tersely.
" But it didn t die," she continued in a trembling whisper, and
the other awful feeling grew stronger and stronger hatred ; no,
that is not the word loathing for for John. I fought against
252 Thy Heart s Desire
it. Yes," she cried feverishly, clasping and unclasping her hands,
"Heaven knows I fought it with all my strength, and reasoned
with myself, and oh, I did everything, but " Her quick-
falling tears made speech difficult.
"Kathleen!" Broomhurst urged desperately, "you couldn t
help it, you poor child. You say yourself you struggled against
your feelings you were always gentle. Perhaps he didn t
"But he did he did" she wailed, " it is just that. I hurt
him a hundred times a day ; he never said so, but I knew it ; and
yet I couldn t be kind to him except in words and he understood.
And after you came it was worse in one way, for he knew. I
felt he knew that I loved you. His eyes used to follow me like a
dog s, and I was stabbed with remorse, and I tried to be good to
him, but I couldn t."
" But he didn t suspect he trusted you," began Broomhurst.
" He had every reason. No woman was ever so loyal, so "
" Hush," she almost screamed. " Loyal ! it was the least I
could do to stop you, I mean when you After all, I knew it
without your telling me. I had deliberately married him without
loving him. It was my own fault. I felt it. Even if I couldn t
prevent his knowing that I hated him, I could prevent that. It
was my punishment. I deserved it for daring to marry without
love. But I didn t spare John one pang, after all," she added
bitterly. " He knew what I felt towards him I don t think he
cared about anything else. You say I mustn t reproach myself ?
When I went back to the tent that morning when you when
I stopped you from saying you loved me, he was sitting at the
table with his head buried in his hands ; he was crying bitterly :
I saw him it is terrible to see a man cry and I stole away
gently, but he saw me. I was torn to pieces, but I couldn t go
By Netta Syrett 253
to him. I knew he would kiss me, and I shuddered to think of
it. It seemed more than ever not to be borne that he should do
that when I knew you loved me."
" Kathleen," cried her lover again, " don t dwell on it all so
terribly don t "
" How can I forget ? " she answered despairingly, "and then "
she lowered her voice " oh, I can t tell you all the time, at the
back of my mind somewhere, there wasaburningwish that he might
die. I used to lie awake at night, and do what I would to stifle it,
that thought used to scorch me, I wished it so intensely. Do you
believe that by willing one can bring such things to pass ? " she
asked, looking at Broomhurst with feverishly bright eyes. " No ?
well, I don t know I tried to smother it. I really tried,
but it was there, whatever other thoughts I heaped on the top.
Then, when I heard the horse galloping across the plain that
morning, I had a sick fear that it was you. I knew something had
happened, and my first thought when I saw you alive and well,
and knew that it was John^ was, that it was too good to be true. I
believe I laughed like a maniac, didn t I ? .... Not to blame ?
Why, if it hadn t been for me he wouldn t have died. The
men say they saw him sitting with his head uncovered in the
burning sun, his face buried in his hands just as I had seen
him the day before. He didn t trouble to be careful he was too
She paused, and Broomhurst rose and began to pace the little
hillside path at the edge of which they were seated.
Presently he came back to her.
" Kathleen, let me take care of you," he implored, stooping
towards her. " We have only ourselves to consider in this
matter. Will you come to me at once ?
She shook her head sadly.
By W. Brown Mac Dougal
Reticence in Literature
Some Roundabout Remarks
By Hubert Crackanthorpe
DURING the past fifty years, as every one knows, the art of
fiction has been expanding in a manner exceedingly
remarkable, till it has grown to be the predominant branch of
imaginative literature. But the other day we were assured that
poetry only thrives in limited and exquisite editions ; that the
drama, here in England at least, has practically ceased to be litera
ture at all. Each epoch instinctively chooses that literary vehicle
which is best adapted for the expression of its particular temper :
just as the drama flourished in the robust age of Shakespeare and
Ben Jonson ; just as that outburst of lyrical poetry, at the begin
ning of the century in France, coincided with a period of extreme
emotional exaltation ; so the novel, facile and flexible in its con
ventions, with its endless opportunities for accurate delineation of
reality, becomes supreme in a time of democracy and of science
to note but these two salient characteristics.
And, if we pursue this light of thought, we find that, on all
sides, the novel is being approached in one especial spirit, that it
would seem to be striving, for the moment at any rate, to perfect
itself within certain definite limitations. To employ a hackeyed,
The Yellow Book Vol. II. P and
260 Reticence in Literature
and often quite unintelligent, catchword the novel is becoming
Throughout the history of literature, the jealous worship of
beauty which we term idealism and the jealous worship of truth
which we term realism have alternately prevailed. Indeed, it is
within the compass of these alternations that lies the whole fun
damental diversity of literary temper.
Still, the classification is a clumsy one, for no hard and fast line
can be drawn between the one spirit and the other. The so-called
idealist must take as his point of departure the facts of Nature ; the
so-called realist must be sensitive to some one or other of the
forms of beauty, if each would achieve the fineness of great art.
And the pendulum of production is continually swinging, from
degenerate idealism to degenerate realism, from effete vapidity to
Either term, then, can only be employed in a purely limited
and relative sense. Completely idealistic art art that has no point
of contact with the facts of the universe, as we know them is, of
course, an impossible absurdity ; similarly, a complete reproduction
of Nature by means of words is an absurd impossibility. Neither
emphasization nor abstraction can be dispensed with : the one,
eliminating the details of no import ; the other, exaggerating those
which the artist has selected. And, even were such a thing
possible, it would not be Art. The invention of a highly perfected
system of coloured photography, for instance, or a skilful recording
by means of the phonograph of scenes in real life, would not sub
tract one whit from the value of the painter s or the playwright s
interpretation. Art is not invested with the futile function of
perpetually striving after imitation or reproduction of Nature ; she
endeavours to produce, through the adaptation of a restricted number
of natural facts, an harmonious and satisfactory whole. Indeed, in
By Hubert Crackanthorpe 261
this very process of adaptation and blending together, lies the main
and greater task of the artist. And the novel, the short story,
even the impression of a mere incident, convey each of them, the
imprint of the temper in which their creator has achieved this
process of adaptation and blending together of his material. They
are inevitably stamped with the hall-mark of his personality. A
work of art can never be more than a corner of Nature, seen
through the temperament of a single man. Thus, all literature is,
must be, essentially subjective ; for style is but the power of
individual expression. The disparity which separates literature
from the reporter s transcript is ineradicable. There is a quality
of ultimate suggestiveness to be achieved ; for the business of art
is, not to explain or to describe, but to suggest. That attitude of
objectivity, or of impersonality towards his subject, consciously or
unconsciously, assumed by the artist, and which nowadays provokes
so considerable an admiration, can be attained only in a limited
degree. Every piece of imaginative work must be a kind of
autobiography of its creator significant, if not of the actual facts
of his existence, at least of the inner working of his soul. We are
each of us conscious, not of the whole world, but of our own
world ; not of naked reality, but of that aspect of reality which
our peculiar temperament enables us to appropriate. Thus, every
narrative of an external circumstance is never anything else than
the transcript of the impression produced upon ourselves by that
circumstance, and, invariably, a degree of individual interpretation
is insinuated into every picture, real or imaginary, however
objective it may be. So then, the disparity between the so-called
idealist and the so-called realist is a matter, not of aesthetic philo
sophy, but of individual temperament. Each is at work, according
to the especial bent of his genius, within precisely the same limits.
Realism, as a creed, is as ridiculous as any other literary creed.
262 Reticence in Literature
Now, it would have been exceedingly curious if this recent
specialisation of the art of fiction, this passion for draining from the
life, as it were, born, in due season, of the general spirit of the
latter half of the nineteenth century, had notprovoked a considerable
amount of opposition opposition of just that kind which every
new evolution in art inevitably encounters. Between the vanguard
and the main body there is perpetual friction.
But time flits quickly in this hurried age of ours, and the
opposition to the renascence of fiction as a conscientious interpre
tation of life is not what it was ; its opponents are not the men
they were. It is not so long since a publisher was sent to prison
for issuing English translations of celebrated specimens of French
realism ; yet, only the other day, we vied with each other in doing
honour to the chief figure-head of that tendency across the Channel,
and there was heard but the belated protest of a few worthy indi
viduals, inadequately equipped with the jaunty courage of ignorance,
or the insufferable confidence of second-hand knowledge.
And during the past year things have been moving very rapidly.
The position of the literary artist towards Nature, his great
inspirer, has become more definite, more secure. A sound, organ
ised opinion of men of letters is being acquired ; and in the little
bouts with the bourgeois if I may be pardoned the use of that
wearisome word no one has to fight single-handed. Heroism is
at a discount ; Mrs. Grundy is becoming mythological ; a crowd
of unsuspected supporters collect from all sides, and the deadly
conflict of which we had been warned becomes but an interesting
skirmish. Books are published, stories are printed, in old-established
reviews, which would never have been tolerated a few years ago.
On all sides, deference to the tendency of the time is spreading.
The truth must be admitted : the roar of unthinking prejudice is
By Hubert Crackanthorpe 263
All this is exceedingly comforting : and yet, perhaps, it is not a
matter for absolute congratulation. For, if the enemy are not
dying as gamely as we had expected, if they are, as I am afraid,
losing heart, and in danger of sinking into a condition of passive
indifference, it should be to us a matter of not inconsiderable
apprehension. If this new evolution in the art of fiction this
general return of the literary artist towards Nature, on the brink
of which we are to-day hesitating is to achieve any definite,
ultimate fineness of expression, it will benefit enormously by the
continued presence of a healthy, vigorous, if not wholly intelligent,
body of opponents. Directly or indirectly, they will knock a lot
of nonsense out of us, will these opponents ; why should we be
ashamed to admit it ? They will enable us to find our level, they
will spur us on to bring out the best and only the best that is
Take, for instance, the gentleman who objects to realistic fiction
on moral grounds. If he does not stand the most conspicuous
to-day, at least he was pre-eminent the day before yesterday. He is
a hard case, and it is on his especial behalf that I would appeal. For
he has been dislodged from the hill top, he has become a target for all
manner of unkind chaff, from the ribald youth of Fleet Street and
Chelsea. He has been labelled a Philistine : he has been twitted
with his middle-age ; he has been reported to have compromised
himself with that indecent old person, Mrs. Grundy. It is confi
dently asserted that he comes from Putney, or from Sheffield, and
that, when he is not busy abolishing the art of English literature,
he is employed in safeguarding the interests of the grocery or
tallow-chandler s trade. Strange and cruel tales of him have been
printed in the monthly reviews ; how, but for him, certain well-
known popular writers would have written masterpieces ; how,
like the ogre in the fairy tale, he consumes every morning at break
264 Reticence in Literature
fast a hundred pot-boiled young geniuses. For the most part they
have been excellently well told, these tales of this moral ogre of
ours ; but why start to shatter brutally their dainty charm by a
soulless process of investigation ? No, let us be shamed rather into
a more charitable spirit, into making generous amends, into reha
bilitating the greatness of our moral ogre.
He is the backbone of our nation ; the guardian of our medio
crity ; the very foil of our intelligence. Once, you fancied that
you could argue with him, that you could dispute his dictum.
Ah ! how we cherished that day-dream of our extreme youth.
But it was not to be. He is still immense ; for he is unassail
able ; he is flawless, for he is complete within himself; his
lucidity is yet unimpaired ; his impartiality is yet supreme.
Who amongst us could judge with a like impartiality the
productions of Scandinavia and Charpentier, Walt Whitman,
and the Independent Theatre ? Let us remember that he
has never professed to understand Art, and the deep debt of
gratitude that every artist in the land should consequently owe to
him ; let us remember that he is above us, for he belongs to the
great middle classes ; let us remember that he commands votes,
that he is candidate for the County Council ; let us remember that
he is delightful, because he is intelligible.
Yes, he is intelligible ; and of how many of us can that be said ?
His is no complex programme, no subtly exacting demand. A
plain moral lesson is all that he asks, and his voice is as of one
crying in the ever fertile wilderness of Smith and of Mudie.
And he is right, after all if he only knew it. The business
of art is to create for us fine interests, to make of our human
nature a more complete thing : and thus, all great art is moral in
the wider and the truer sense of the word. It is precisely on this
point of the meaning of the word " moral " that we and our ogre
By Hubert Crackanthorpe 265
part company. To him, morality is concerned only with the
established relations between the sexes and with fair dealing between
man and man : to him the subtle, indirect morality of Art is
Theoretically, Art is non-moral. She is not interested in any
ethical code of any age or any nation, except in so far as the
breach or observance of that code may furnish her with material
on which to work. But, unfortunately, in this complex world of
ours, we cannot satisfactorily pursue one interest no, not even the
interest of Art, at the expense of all others let us look that fact in
the face, doggedly, whatever pangs it may cost us pleading mag
nanimously for the survival of our moral ogre, for there will be
danger to our cause when his voice is no more heard.
If imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, then our moral
ogre must indeed have experienced a proud moment, when a
follower came to him from the camp of the lovers of Art, and the
artistic objector to realistic fiction started on his timid career. I
use the word timid in no disparaging sense, but because our
artistic objector, had he ventured a little farther from the vicinity
of the coat-tails of his powerful protector, might have secured a
more adequate recognition of his performances. For he is by no
means devoid of adroitness. He can patter to us glibly of the
" gospel of ugliness " ; of the " cheerlessness of modern literature " ;
he can even juggle with that honourable property-piece, the maxim
of Art for Art s sake. But there have been moments when even
this feat has proved ineffective, and some one has started scoffing
at his pretended " delight in pure rhythm or music of the phrase,"
and flippantly assured him that he is talking nonsense, and that
style is a mere matter of psychological suggestion. You fancy
our performer nonplussed, or at least boldly bracing himself to
brazen the matter out. No, he passes dexterously to his curtain
266 Reticence in Literature
effect a fervid denunciation of express trains, evening news
papers, Parisian novels, or the first number of THE YELLOW
BOOK. Verily, he is a versatile person.
Sometimes, to listen to him you would imagine that pessimism
and regular meals were incompatible ; that the world is only
ameliorated by those whom it completely satisfies, that good pre
dominates over evil, that the problem of our destiny had been
solved long ago. You begin to doubt whether any good thing
can come out of this miserable, inadequate age of ours, unless it
be a doctored survival of the vocabulary of a past century. The
language of the coster and cadger resound in our midst, and,
though Velasquez tried to paint like Whistler, Rudyard Kipling
cannot write like Pope. And a weird word has been invented to
explain the whole business. Decadence, decadence : you are all
decadent nowadays. Ibsen, Degas, and the New English Art
Club ; Zola, Oscar Wilde, and the Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
Mr. Richard Le Gallienne is hoist with his own petard ; even the
British playwright has not escaped the taint. Ah, what a hideous
spectacle. All whirling along towards one common end. And
the elegant voice of the artistic objector floating behind : " Aprh
vous le dlluge" A wholesale abusing of the tendencies of the age
has ever proved, for the superior mind, an inexhaustible source
of relief. Few things breed such inward comfort as the con
templation of one s own pessimism few things produce such
discomfort as the remembrance of our neighbour s optimism.
And yet, pessimists though we may be dubbed, some of us, on
this point at least, how can we compete with the hopelessness
enjoyed by our artistic objector, when the spectacle of his despond
ency makes us insufferably replete with hope and confidence, so
that while he is loftily bewailing or prettily denouncing the com
pleteness of our degradation, we continue to delight in the evil of
By Hubert Crackanthorpe 267
our ways ? Oh, if we could only be sure that he would persevere
in reprimanding this persistent study of the pitiable aspects of life,
how our hearts would go out towards him ? For the man who
said that joy is essentially, regrettably inartistic, admitted in the
same breath that misery lends itself to artistic treatment twice as
easily as joy, and resumed the whole question in a single phrase.
Let our artistic objector but weary the world sufficiently with his
despair concerning the permanence of the cheerlessness of modern
realism, and some day a man will arise who will give us a study of
human happiness, as fine, as vital as anything we owe to Guy de
Maupassant or to Ibsen. That man will have accomplished the
infinitely difficult, and in admiration and in awe shall we bow
down our heads before him.
In one radical respect the art of fiction is not in the same
position as the other arts. They music, poetry, painting, sculp
ture, and the drama possess a magnificent fabric of accumu
lated tradition. The great traditions of the art of fiction have
yet to be made. Ours is a young art, struggling desperately to reach
expression, with no great past to guide it. Thus, it should be a
matter for wonder, not that we stumble into certain pitfalls, but
that we do not fall headlong into a hundred more.
But, if we have no great past, we have the present and the
future the one abundant in facilities, the other abundant in pos
sibilities. Young men of to-day have enormous chances : we are
working under exceedingly favourable conditions. Possibly we
stand on the threshold of a very great period. I know, of course,
that the literary artist is shamefully ill-paid, and that the man who
merely caters for the public taste, amasses a rapid and respectable
fortune. But how is it that such an arrangement seems other
than entirely equitable? The essential conditions of the two cases
are entirely distinct. The one man is free to give untrammelled
268 Reticence in Literature
expression to his own soul, free to fan to the full the flame that
burns in his heart : the other is a seller of wares, a unit in national
commerce. To the one is allotted liberty and a living wage ; to
the other, captivity and a consolation in Consols. Let us whine,
then, no more concerning the prejudice and the persecution of the
Philistine, when even that misanthrope, Mr. Robert Buchanan,
admits that there is no power in England to prevent a man writing
exactly as he pleases. Before long the battle for literary freedom
will be won. A new public has been created appreciative, eager
and determined ; a public which, as Mr. Gosse puts it, in one of
those admirable essays of his, " has eaten of the apple of know
ledge, and will not be satisfied with mere marionnettes. Whatever
comes next," Mr. Gosse continues, " we cannot return, in serious
novels, to the inanities and impossibilites of the old well-made
plot, to the children changed at nurse, to the madonna-heroine and
the god-like hero, to the impossible virtues and melodramatic
vices. In future, even those who sneer at realism and misrepre
sent it most wilfully, will be obliged to put their productions more
in accordance with veritable experience. There will still be
novel-writers who address the gallery, and who will keep up the
gaudy old convention, and the clumsy Family Herald evolution,
but they will no longer be distinguished men of genius. They
will no longer sign themselves George Sand or Charles Dickens."
Fiction has taken her place amongst the arts. The theory that
writing resembles the blacking of boots, the more boots you black,
the better you do it, is busy evaporating. The excessive admira
tion for the mere idea of a book or a story is dwindling ; so is the
comparative indifference to slovenly treatment. True is it that
the society lady, dazzled by the brilliancy of her own conversation,
and the serious-minded spinster, bitten by some sociological theory,
still decide in the old jaunty spirit, that fiction is the obvious
By Hubert Crackanthorpe 269
medium through which to astonish or improve the world. Let us
beware of the despotism of the intelligent amateur, and cease our
toying with that quaint and winsome bogey of ours, the British
Philistine, whilst the intelligent amateur, the deadliest of Art s
enemies, is creeping up in our midst.
For the familiarity of the man in the street with the material
employed by the artist in fiction, will ever militate against the
acquisition of a sound, fine, and genuine standard of workmanship.
Unlike the musician, the painter, the sculptor, the architect, the
artist in fiction enjoys no monopoly in his medium. The word
and the phrase are, of necessity, the common property of everybody ;
the ordinary use of them demands no special training. Hence the
popular mind, while willingly acknowledging that there are
technical difficulties to be surmounted in the creation of the
sonata, the landscape, the statue, the building, in the case of the
short story, or of the longer novel, declines to believe even in their
existence, persuaded that in order to produce good fiction, an
ingenious idea, or " plot," as it is termed, is the one thing needed.
The rest is a mere matter of handwriting.
The truth is, and, despite Mr. Waugh, we are near recognition
of it, that nowadays there is but scanty merit in the mere
selection of any particular subject, however ingenious or daring it
may appear at first sight ; that a man is not an artist, simply
because he writes about heredity or the demi-monde^ that to call a
spade a spade requires no extraordinary literary gift, and that the
essential is contained in the frank, fearless acceptance by every
man of his entire artistic temperament, with its qualities and its
By E. J. Sullivan
I. The Old Man s Garden
II. The Quick and the Dead
By Alfred Hayes
Er others strive for wealth or praise
Who care to win ;
I count myself full blest, if He,
Who made my study fair to see,
Grant me but length of quiet days
To muse therein.
Its walls, with peach and cherry clad,
From yonder wold
Unbosomed, seem as if thereon
September sunbeams ever shone ;
They make the air look warm and glad
When winds are cold.
Around its door a clematis
Her arms doth tie ;
Through leafy lattices I view
Its endless corridors of blue
Curtained with clouds ; its ceiling is
The marbled sky.
276 My Study
A verdant carpet smoothly laid
Doth oft invite
My silent steps ; thereon the sun
With silver thread of dew hath spun
Devices rare the warp of shade,
The weft of lighc.
Here dwell my chosen books, whose leaves
With healing breath
The ache of discontent assuage,
And speak from each illumined page
The patience that my soul reprieves
From inward death ;
Some perish with a season s wind,
And some endure ;
One robes itself in snow, and one
In raiment of the rising sun
Bordered with gold ; in all I find
God s signature.
As on my grassy couch I lie,
From hedge and tree
Musicians pipe ; or if the heat
Subdue the birds, one crooneth sweet
Whose labour is a lullaby
The slumbrous bee.
By Alfred Hayes 277
The sun my work doth overlook
With searching light ;
The serious moon, the flickering star,
My midnight lamp and candle are;
A soul unhardened is the book
Wherein I write.
There labouring, my heart is eased
Of every care ;
Yet often wonderstruck I stand,
With earnest gaze but idle hand,
Abashed for God Himself is pleased
To labour there.
Ashamed my faultful task to spell,
I watch how grows
The Master s perfect colour-scheme
Of sunset, or His simpler dream
Of moonlight, or that miracle
We name a rose.
Dear Earth, one thought alone doth grieve-
The tender dread
Of parting from thee ; as a child,
Who painted while his father smiled,
Then watched him paint, is loth to leave
And go to bed.
A Reminiscence of
" The Transgressor
By Francis Forster
A Letter to the Editor
From Max Beerbohm
DEAR SIR, When THE YELLOW BOOK appeared I was in
Oxford. So literary a little town is Oxford that its under
graduates see a newspaper nearly as seldom as the Venetians see a
horse, and until yesterday, when coming to London, I found in
the album of a friend certain newspaper cuttings, I had not known
how great was the wrath of the pressmen.
What in the whole volume seems to have provoked the most
ungovernable fury is, I am sorry to say, an essay about Cosmetics
that I myself wrote. Of this it was impossible for any one to speak
calmly. The mob lost its head, and, so far as any one in literature
can be lynched, I was. In speaking of me, one paper dropped
the usual prefix of " Mr." as though I were a well-known
criminal, and referred to me shortly as " Beerbohm " ; a second
allowed me the "Mr." but urged that "a short Act of Parliament
should be passed to make this kind of thing illegal " ; a third sug
gested, rather tamely, that I should read one of Mr. William Watson s
sonnets. More than one comic paper had a very serious poem
about me, and a known adherent to the humour which, forest-
like, is called new, declared my essay to be " the rankest and
most nauseous thing in all literature." It was a bomb thrown by
a cowardly decadent, another outrage by one of that desperate and
The Yellow Book Vol. II. Q dangerous
282 A Letter to the Editor
dangerous band of madmen who must be mercilessly stamped out
by a comity of editors. May I, Sir, in justice to myself and to
you, who were gravely censured for harbouring me, step forward,
and assure the affrighted mob that it is the victim of a hoax ?
May I also assure it that I had no notion that it would be taken
in ? Indeed, it seems incredible to me that any one on the face
of the earth could fail to see that my essay, so grotesque in subject,
in opinion so flippant, in style so wildly affected, was meant for
a burlesque upon the " precious " school of writers. If I had
only signed myself D. Cadent or Parrar Docks, or appended a
note to say that the MS. had been picked up not a hundred
miles from Tite Street, all the pressmen would have said that I had
given them a very delicate bit of satire. But I did not. And
hinC) as they themselves love to say, Hits lacrima.
After all, I think it is a sound rule that a writer should not
kick his critics. I simply wish to make them a friendly philoso
phical suggestion. It seems to be thought that criticism holds in
the artistic world much the same place as, in the moral world, is
held by punishment " the vengeance taken by the majority upon
such as exceed the limits of conduct imposed by that majority."
As in the case of punishment, then, we must consider the effect
produced by criticism upon its object, how far is it reformatory ?
Personally, I cannot conceive how any artist can be hurt by
remarks dropped from a garret into a gutter. Yet it is incontest
able that many an illustrious artist has so been hurt. And these
very remarks, so far from making him change or temper his
method, have rather made that method intenser, have driven him
to retire further within his own soul, by showing him how little he
may hope for from the world but insult and ingratitude.
In fact, the police-constable mode of criticism is a failure.
True that, here and there, much beautiful work of the kind has
From Max Beerbohm 283
been done. In the old, old Quarterlies is many a slashing
review, that, however absurd it be as criticism, we can hardly wish
unwritten. In the National Observer, before its reformation, were
countless fine examples of the cavilling method. The paper was
rowdy, venomous and insincere. There was libel in every line of
it. It roared with the lambs and bleated with the lions. It was
a disgrace to journalism and a glory to literature. I think of it
often with tears and desiderium. But the men who wrote these
things stand upon a very different plane to the men employed
as critics by the press of Great Britain. These must be judged,
not by their workmanship, which is naught, but by the spirit
that animates them and the consequence of their efforts. If only
they could learn that it is for the critic to seek after beauty
and to try to interpret it to others, if only they would give over
their eternal fault-finding and not presume to interfere with the
artist at his work, then with an equally small amount of ability
our pressmen might do nearly as much good as they have hitherto
done harm. Why should they regard writers with such enmity ?
The average pressman, reviewing a book of stories or of poems by
an unknown writer, seems not to think " where are the beauties of
this work that I may praise them, and by my praise quicken the
sense of beauty in others ? " He steadily applies himself to the
ignoble task of plucking out and gloating over its defects. It is a
pity that critics should show so little sympathy with writers, and
curious when we consider that most of them tried to be writers
themselves, once. Every new school that has come into the world,
every new writer who has brought with him a new mode, they
have rudely persecuted. The dulness of Ibsen, the obscurity of
Meredith, the horrors of Zola all these are household words. It
is not until the pack has yelled itself hoarse that the level voice of
justice is heard in praise. To pretend that no generation is capable
284 A Letter to the Editor
of gauging the greatness of its own artists is the merest bauble-tit.
Were it not for the accursed abuse of their function by the great
body of critics, no poet need " live uncrown d, apart." Many and
irreparable are the wrongs that our critics have done. At length
let them repent with ashes upon their heads. Where they see not
beauty, let them be silent, reverently feeling that it may yet be
there, and train their dull senses in quest of it.
Now is a good time for such penance. There are signs that
our English literature has reached that point, when, like the
literatures of all the nations that have been, it must fall at length
into the hands of the decadents. The qualities that I tried
in my essay to travesty paradox and marivaudage, lassitude, a
love of horror and all unusual things, a love of argot and archaism
and the mysteries of style are not all these displayed, some by
one, some by another of les jeunes ^crivains ? Who knows but
that Artifice is in truth at our gates and that soon she may pass
through our streets ? Already the windows of Grub Street are
crowded with watchful, evil faces. They are ready, the men of
Grub Street, to pelt her, as they have pelted all that came before
her. Let them come down while there is still time, and hang
their houses with colours, and strew the road with flowers. Will
they not, for once, do homage to a new queen ? By the time this
letter appears, it may be too late !
Meanwhile, Sir, I am, your obedient servant,
Oxford, May 94.
By Bernhard Sickert
ro A LADY RECOVERED FROM A DANGEROUS
Life plucks thee back as by the golden hair
Life, who had feigned to let thee go but now.
Wealthy is Death already^ and can spare
Evn such a prey as thou.
The Coxon Fund
By Henry James
^npHEv vE got him for life ! " I said to myself that evening on
my way back to the station ; but later, alone in the com
partment (from Wimbledon to Waterloo, before the glory of the
District Railway), I amended this declaration in the light of the
sense that my friends would probably after all not enjoy a monopoly
of Mr. Saltram. I won t pretend to have taken his vast measure on
that first occasion ; but I think I had achieved a glimpse of what
the privilege of his acquaintance might mean for many persons in
the way of charges accepted. He had been a great experience,
and it was this perhaps that had put me into a frame for divining
that we should all have the honour, sooner or later, of dealing
with him as a whole. Whatever impression I then received of
the amount of this total, I had a full enough vision of the patience
of the Mulvilles. He was staying with them for the winter ;
Adelaide dropped it in a tone which drew the sting from the
temporary. These excellent people might indeed have been
content to give the circle of hospitality a diameter of six months ;
but if they didn t say that he was staying for the summer as well
it was only because this was more than they ventured to hope. I
By Henry James 291
remember that at dinner that evening he wore slippers, new and
predominantly purple, of some queer carpet-stuff : but the Mul-
villes were still in the stage of supposing that he might be
snatched from them by higher bidders. At a later time they
grew, poor dears, to fear no snatching ; but theirs was a fidelity
which needed no help from competition to make them proud.
Wonderful indeed as, when all was said, you inevitably pro
nounced Frank Saltram, it was not to be overlooked that the
Kent Mulvilles were in their way still more extraordinary ; as
striking an instance as could easily be encountered of the familiar
truth that remarkable men find remarkable conveniences.
They had sent for me from Wimbledon to come out and dine,
and there had been an implication in Adelaide s note (judged by
her notes alone she might have been thought silly), that it was a
c.ase in which something momentous was to be determined or done.
I had never known them not to be in a state about somebody, and
I daresay I tried to be droll on this point in accepting their invita
tion. On finding myself in the presence of their latest revelation
I had not at first felt irreverence droop and, thank heaven, I
have never been absolutely deprived of that alternative in Mr.
Saltram s company. I saw, however (I hasten to declare it), that
compared to this specimen their other phoenixes had been birds of
inconsiderable feather, and I afterwards took credit to myself for
not having even in primal bewilderments made a mistake about
the essence of the man. He had an incomparable gift ; I never
was blind to it it dazzles me at present. It dazzles me perhaps
even more in remembrance than in fact, for I m not unaware that
for a subject so magnificent the imagination goes to some expense,
inserting a jewel here and there or giving a twist to a plume.
How the art of portraiture would rejoice in this figure if the art of
portraiture had only the canvas ! Nature, however, had really
292 The Coxon Fund
rounded it, and if memory, hovering about it, sometimes holds her
breath, this is because the voice that comes back was really
Though the great man was an inmate and didn t dress he kept
dinner on this occasion waiting long, and the first words he uttered
on coming into the room were a triumphant announcement to
Mulville that he had found out something. Not catching the
allusion and gaping doubtless a little at his face, I privately asked
Adelaide what he had found out. I shall never forget the look
she gave me as she replied : " Everything ! " She really believed
it. At that moment, at any rate, he had found out that the mercy
of the Mulvilles was infinite. He had previously of course
discovered, as I had myself for that matter, that their dinners were
soignes. Let me not indeed, in saying this, neglect to declare that
I shall falsify my counterfeit if I seem to hint that there was in
his nature any ounce of calculation. He took whatever came, but
he never plotted for it, and no man who was so much of an
absorbent can ever have been so little of a parasite. He had a
system of the universe, but he had no system of sponging that
was quite hand to mouth. He had fine, gross, easy senses, but it
was not his good-natured appetite that wrought confusion. If he
had loved us for our dinners we could have paid with our dinners,
and it would have been a great economy of finer matter. I make
free in these connections with the plural possessive because, if I
was never able to do what the Mulvilles did, and people with still
bigger houses and simpler charities, I met, first and last, every
demand of reflection, of emotion particularly perhaps those of
gratitude and of resentment. No one, I think, paid the tribute
of giving him up so often, and if it s rendering honour to borrow
wisdow I have a right to talk of my sacrifices. He yielded
lessons as the sea yields fish I lived for a while on this diet.
By Henry James 293
Sometimes it almost appeared to me that his massive, monstrous
failure if failure after all it was had been intended for my
private recreation. He fairly pampered my curiosity ; but the
history of that experience would take me too far. This is not the
large canvas I just now spoke of, and I would not have approached
him with my present hand had it been a question of all the
features. Frank Saltram s features, for artistic purposes, are verily
the anecdotes that are to be gathered. Their name is legion,
aud this is only one, of which the interest is that it concerns even
more closely several other persons. Such episodes, as one looks
back, are the little dramas that made up the innumerable facets of
the big drama which is yet to be reported.
It is furthermore remarkable that though the two stories are
distinct my own, as it were, and this other, they equally began,
in a manner, the first night of my acquaintance with Frank
Saltram, the night I came back from Wimbledon so agitated with
a new sense of life that, in London, for the very thrill of it, I
could only walk home. Walking and swinging my stick, I over
took, at Buckingham Gate, George Gravener, and George
Gravener s story may be said to have begun with my making him,
as our paths lay together, come home with me for a talk. I duly
remember, let me parenthesise, that it was still more that or another
person, and also that several years were to elapse before it was to
extend to a second chapter. I had much to say to him, none the
less, about my visit to the Mulvilles, whom he more indifferently
knew, and I was at any rate so amusing that for long afterwards
294 The Coxon Fund
he never encountered me without asking for news of the old man
of the sea. I hadn t said Mr. Saltram was old, and it was to be
seen that he was of an age to outweather George Gravener. I
had at that time a lodging in Ebury Street, and Gravener was
staying at his brother s empty house in Eaton Square. At Cam
bridge, five years before, even in our devastating set, his intellectual
power had seemed to me almost awful. Some one had once asked
me privately, with blanched cheeks, what it was then that after
all such a mind as that left standing. " It leaves itself ! " I could
recollect devoutly replying. I could smile at present at this
reminiscence, for even before we got to Ebury Street I was struck
with the fact that, save in the sense of being well set up on his
legs, George Gravener had actually ceased to tower. The uni
verse he laid low had somehow bloomed again the usual
eminences were visible. I wondered whether he had lost his
humour, or only, dreadful thought, had never had any not even
when I had fancied him most Aristophanesque. What was the
need of appealing to laughter, however, I could enviously inquire,
where you might appeal so confidently to measurement ? Mr.
Saltram s queer figure, his thick nose and hanging lip were fresh to
me : in the light of my old friend s fine cold symmetry they
presented mere success in amusing as the refuge of conscious
ugliness. Already, at hungry twenty-six, Gravener looked as
blank and parliamentary as if he were fifty and popular. In my
scrap of a residence (he had a worldling s eye for its futile con
veniences, but never a comrade s joke), I sounded Frank Saltram
in his ears ; a circumstance I mention in order to note that even
then I was surprised at his impatience of my enlivenment. As he
had never before heard of the personage, it took indeed the form
of impatience of the preposterous Mulvilles, his relation to whom,
like mine, had had its origin in an early, a childish intimacy with
By Henry James 295
the young Adelaide, the fruit of multiplied ties in the previous
generation. When she married Kent Mulville, who was older
than Gravener and T, and much more amiable, I gained a friend,
but Gravener practically lost one. We were affected in different
ways by the form taken by what he called their deplorable social
action the form (the term was also his) of nasty second-rate
gush. I may have held in my for intMeur that the good people
at Wimbledon were beautiful fools, but when he sniffed at them
I couldn t help talcing the opposite line, for I already felt that
even should we happen to agree it would always be for reasons
that differed. It came home to me that he was admirably British
as, without so much as a sociable sneer at my bookbinder, he
turned away from the serried rows of my little French library.
" Of course I ve never seen the fellow, but it s clear enough he s
"Clear enough is just what it isn t," I replied: "if it only
were !" That ejaculation on my part must have been the be
ginning of what was to be later a long ache for final frivolous rest.
Gravener was profound enough to remark after a moment that
in the first place he couldn t be anything but a Dissenter, and
when I answered that the very note of his fascination was his
extraordinary speculative breadth he retorted that there was no
cad like your cultivated cad and that I might depend upon dis
covering (since I had had the levity not already to have inquired),
that my shining light proceeded, a generation back, from a
Methodist cheesemonger. I confess I was struck with his
insistence, and I said, after reflection: "It maybe I admit it
may be ; but why on earth are you so sure ? " asking the
question mainly to lay him the trap of saying that it was because
the poor man didn t dress for dinner. He took an instant to dodge
my trap and come blandly out the other side.
296 The Coxon Fund
"Because the Kent Mulvilles have invented him. They ve an
infallible hand for frauds. All their geese are swans. They were
born to be duped, they like it, they cry for it, they don t know
anything from anything, and they disgust one (luckily perhaps !)
with Christian charity." His intensity was doubtless an
accident, but it might have been a strange foreknowledge.
I forget what protest I dropped ; it was at any rate something
which led him to go on after a moment : " I only ask one
thing it s perfectly simple. Is a man, in a given case, a real
gentleman ? "
"A real gentleman, my dear fellow that s so soon said ! "
" Not so soon when he isn t ! If they ve got hold of one this
time he must be a great rascal ! "
" I might feel injured," I answered, " if I didn t reflect that they
don t rave about me."
" Don t be too sure ! I ll grant that he s a gentleman," Gravener
presently added, " if you ll admit that he s a scamp."
"I don t know which to admire most, your logic or your bene
My friend coloured at this, but he didn t change the subject.
Where did they pick him up ? "
" I think they were struck with something he had published."
" I can fancy the dreary thing ! "
" I believe they found out he had all sorts of worries and
" That, of course, was not to be endured, and they jumped at
the privilege of paying his debts ! " I replied that I knew nothing
about his debts, and I reminded my visitor that though the dear
Mulvilles were angels they were neither idiots nor millionaires.
What they mainly aimed at was re-uniting Mr. Saltram to his
wife. " I was expecting to hear that he has basely abandoned her,"
By Henry James 297
Gravener went on, at this, " and I m too glad you don t disappoint
I tried to recall exactly what Mrs. Mulville had told me. " He
didn t leave her no. It s she who has left him."
" Left him to us?" Gravener asked. " The monster many
thanks ! I decline to take him."
u You ll hear more about him in spite of yourself. I can t, no,
I really can t, resist the impression that he s a big man." I was
already learning to my shame perhaps be it said just the tone
that my old friend least liked.
"It s doubtless only a trifle," he returned, " but you haven t
happened to mention what his reputation s to rest on."
" Why, on what I began by boring you with his extraordinary
" As exhibited in his writings ? "
" Possibly in his writings, but certainly in his talk, which is far
and away the richest I ever listened to."
" And what is it all about ? "
" My dear fellow, don t ask me ! About everything 1 " I
pursued, reminding myself of poor Adelaide. " About his idea of
things," I then more charitably added. " You must have heard
him to know what I mean it s unlike anything that ever was
heard." I coloured, I admit, I overcharged a little, for such a
picture was an anticipation of Saltram s later development and
still more of my fuller acquaintance with him. However, I really
expressed, a little lyrically perhaps, my actual imagination of him
when I proceeded to declare that, in a cloud of tradition, of legend,
he might very well go down to posterity as the greatest of all
great talkers. Before we parted George Gravener demanded why
such a row should be made about a chatterbox the more and why
he should be pampered and pensioned. The greater the windbag
20$ The Coxon Fund
the greater the calamity. Out of proportion to all other move
ments on earth had come to be this wagging of the tongue. We
were drenched with talk our wretched age was dying of it. I
differed from him here sincerely, only going so far as to concede,
and gladly, that we were drenched with sound. It was not,
however, the mere speakers who were killing us it was the mere
stammerers. Fine talk was as rare as it was refreshing the gift
of the gods themselves, the one starry spangle on the ragged cloak
of humanity. How many men were there who rose to this privi
lege, of how many masters of conversation could he boast the
acquaintance ? Dying of talk ? why, we were dying of the lack
of it ! Bad writing wasn t talk, as many people seemed to think,
and even good wasn t always to be compared to it. From the best
talk, indeed, the best writing had something to learn. I fancifully
added that we too should peradventure be gilded by the legend,
should be pointed at for having listened, for having actually heard.
Gravener, who had looked at his watch and discovered it was mid
night, found to all this a response beautifully characteristic of him.
"There is one little sovereign circumstance," he remarked,
" which is common to the best talk and the worst." He looked at
this moment as if he meant so much that I thought he could only
mean once more that neither of them mattered if a man wasn t
a real gentleman. Perhaps it was what he did mean ; he deprived
me, however, of the exultation of being right by putting the truth
in a slightly different way. " The only thing that really counts
for one s estimate of a person is his conduct." He had his watch
still in his hand, and I reproached him with unfair play in having
ascertained beforehand that it was now the hour at which I always
gave in. My pleasantry so far failed to mollify him as that he
presently added that to the rule he had just enunciated there was
absolutely no exception.
By Henry James 299
" None whatever ? "
" None whatever."
" Trust me then to try to be good at any price ! " I laughed as
I went with him to the door. " I declare I will be, if I have to
be horrible ! "
If that first night was one of the liveliest, or at any rate was the
freshest, of my exaltation, there was another, four years later, that
was one of my great discomposures. Repetition, I well knew by
this time, was the secret of Saltram s power to alienate, and of
course one would never have seen him at his finest if one hadn t
seen him in his remorses. They set in mainly at this season and
were magnificent, orchestral. I was perfectly aware that one of
these great sweeps was now gathering ; but none the less, in our
arduous attempt to set him on his feet as a lecturer, it was im
possible not to feel that two failures were a large order, as we said,
for a short course of five. This was the second time, and it was
past nine o clock ; the audience, a muster unprecedented and really
encouraging, had fortunately the attitude of blandness that might
have been looked for in persons whom the promise (if I am not
mistaken) of an Analysis of Primary Ideas had drawn to the
neighbourhood of Upper Baker Street. There was in those days
in that region a petty lecture-hall to be secured on terms as
moderate as the funds left at our disposal by the irrepressible
question of the maintenance of five small Saltrams (I include the
mother) and one large one. By the time the Saltrams, of differ
ent sizes, were all maintained, we had pretty well poured out the
The Yellow Book Vol. II. R oil
300 The Coxon Fund
oil that might have lubricated the machinery for enabling the
most original of men to appear to maintain them.
It was I, the other time, who had been forced into the breach,
standing up there, for an odious lamplit moment to explain to
half-a-dozen thin benches, where the earnest brows were virtu
ously void of guesses, that we couldn t put so much as a finger
on Mr. Saltram. There was nothing to plead but that our
scouts had been out from the early hours and that we were afraid
that on one of his walks abroad he took one, for meditation,
whenever he was to address such a company some accident had
disabled or delayed him. The meditative walks were a fiction,
for he never, that any one could discover, prepared anything but a
magnificent prospectus ; so that his circulars and programmes, of
which I possess an almost complete collection, are as the solemn
ghosts of generations never born. I put the case, as it seemed to
me, at the best ; but I admit I had been angry, and Kent Mul-
ville was shocked at my want of attenuation. This time there
fore I left the excuses to his more practised patience, only
relieving myself in response to a direct appeal from a young lady
next whom, in the hall, I found myself sitting. My position was
an accident, but if it had been calculated the reason would
scarcely have eluded an observer of the fact that no one else in
the room had an appearance so charming. I think indeed she
was the only person there who looked at her ease, who had come
a little in the spirit of adventure. She seemed to carry amuse
ment in her handsome young head, and her presence quite gave
me the sense of a sudden extension of Saltram s sphere of in
fluence. He was doing better than we hoped and he had chosen
this occasion, of all occasions, to succumb to heaven knew which
of his infirmities. The young lady produced an impression of
auburn hair and black velvet, and had on her other hand a com
By Henry James 301
panion of obscurer type, presumably a waiting-maid. She herself
might perhaps have been a foreign countess, and before she spoke
to me I had beguiled our sorry interval by thinking that she
brought vaguely back the first page of some novel of Madame
Sand. It didn t make her more fathomable to perceive in a few
minutes that she could only be an American ; it simply en
gendered depressing reflections as to the possible check to contri
butions from Boston. She asked me if, as a person apparently
more initiated, I would recommend further waiting, and I replied
that if she considered I was on my honour I would privately
deprecate it. Perhaps she didn t ; at any rate something passed
between us that led us to talk until she became aware that we
were almost the only people left. I presently discovered that she
knew Mrs. Saltram, and this explained in a manner the miracle.
The brotherhood of the friends of the husband were as nothing to
the brotherhood, or perhaps I should say the sisterhood, of the
friends of the wife. Like the Kent Mulvilles I belonged to both
fraternities, and even better than they I think I had sounded the
dark abyss of Mrs. Saltram s wrongs. She bored me to extinc
tion, and I knew but too well how she had bored her husband ^
but she had her partisans, the most inveterate of whom were
indeed the handful of poor Saltram s backers. They did her
liberal justice, whereas her peculiar comforters had nothing but
hatred for our philosopher. I am bound to say it was we, how
ever we of both camps, as it were who had always done most
I thought my young lady looked rich I scarcely knew why ;
and I hoped she had put her hand in her pocket. But I soon dis
covered that she was not a partisan she was only a generous,
irresponsible inquirer. She had come to England to see her aunt,
and it was at her aunt s she had met the dreary lady we had all so
302 The Coxon Fund
much on our minds. I saw she would help to pass the time
when she observed that it was a pity this lady wasn t intrinsically
more interesting. That was refreshing, for it was an article of
faith in Mrs. Saltram s circle at least among those who scorned
to know her horrid husband that she was attractive on her
merits. She was really a very common person, as Saltram himself
would have been if he hadn t been a prodigy. The question of
vulgarity had no application to him, but it was a measure that his
wife kept challenging you to apply to her. I hasten to add that
the consequences of your doing so were no sufficient reason for
his having left her to starve. " He doesn t seem to have much
force of character," said my young lady ; at which I laughed out
so loud that my departing friends looked back at me over their
shoulders as if I were making a joke of their discomfiture. My
joke probably cost Saltram a subscription or two, but it helped me
on with my interlocutress. " She says he drinks like a fish," she
sociably continued, "and yet she admits that his mind is wonder
fully clear." It was amusing to converse with a pretty girl who
could talk of the clearness of Saltram s mind. I tried to tell her
I had it almost on my conscience what was the proper way to
regard him ; an effort attended perhaps more than ever on this
occasion with the usual effect of my feeling that I wasn t after all
very sure of it. She had come to-night out of high curiosity
she had wanted to find out this proper way for herself. She had
read some of his papers and hadn t understood them ; but it was
at home, at her aunt s, that her curiosity had been kindled
kindled mainly by his wife s remarkable stories of his want of
virtue. " I suppose they ought to have kept me away," my com
panion dropped, " and I suppose they would have done so if I
hadn t somehow got an idea that he s fascinating. In fact Mrs.
Saltram herself says he is."
By Henry James 303
" So you came to see where the fascination resides ? Well,
you ve seen ! "
My young lady raised her fine eyebrows. " Do you mean in
his bad faith ? "
" In the extraordinary effects of it ; his possession, that is, of
some quality or other that condemns us in advance to forgive him
the humiliation, as I may call it, to which he has subjected us."
" The humiliation ? "
" Why mine, for instance, as one of his guarantors, before you
as the purchaser of a ticket."
"You don t look humiliated a bit, and if you did I should let
you off, disappointed as I am ; for the mysterious quality you
speak of is just the quality I came to see."
" Oh, you can t see it ! " I exclaimed.
" How then do you get at it ? "
" You don t ! You musn t suppose he s good-looking," I
" Why, his wife says he is ! "
My hilarity may have struck my interlocutress as excessive, but
I confess it broke out afresh. Had she acted only in obedience to
this singular plea, so characteristic, on Mrs. Saltram s part, of what
was irritating in the narrowness of that lady s point of view ?
"Mrs. Saltram," I explained, "undervalues him where he is
strongest, so that, to make up for it perhaps, she overpraises him
where he s weak. He s not, assuredly, superficially attractive ; he s
middle-aged, fat, featureless save for his great eyes."
" Yes, his great eyes," said my young lady attentively. She had
evidently heard all about them.
" They re tragic and splendid lights on a dangerous coast.
But he moves badly and dresses worse, and altogether he s strange
304 The Coxon Fund
My companion appeared to reflect on this, and after a moment
she inquired : " Do you call him a real gentleman ?"
I started slightly at the question, for I had a sense of recognising
it : George Gravener, years before that first flushed night, had
put me face to face with it. It had embarrassed me then, but it
didn t embarrass me now, for I had lived with it and overcome it
and disposed of it. " A real gentleman ? Decidedly not ! "
My promptitude surprised her a little, but I quickly felt that it
was not to Gravener I was now talking. " Do you say that
because he s what do you call it in England ? of humble
extraction ? "
" Not a bit. His father was a country schoolmaster and his
mother the widow of a sexton, but that has nothing to do with it.
I say it simply because I know him well."
" But isn t it an awful drawback ? "
" Awful quite awful."
" I mean, isn t it positively fatal ? ;
"Fatal to what ? Not to his magnificent vitality."
Again there was a meditative moment, "And is his magnificent
vitality the cause of his vices ? "
" Your questions are formidable, but I m glad you put them. I
was thinking of his noble intellect. His vices, as you say, have
been much exaggerated : they consist mainly after all in one com
" A want of will ? "
" A want of dignity."
" He doesn t recognise his obligations ? "
" On the contrary, he recognises them with effusion, especially
in public : he smiles and bows and beckons across the street to
them. But when they pass over he turns away, and he speedily
loses them in the crowd. The recognition is purely spiritual it
By Henry James 305
isn t in the least social. So he leaves all his belongings to other
people to take care of. He accepts favours, loans, sacrifices, with
nothing more restrictive than an agony of shame. Fortunately
/we re a little faithful band, and we do what we can." I held my
tongue about the natural children, engendered, to the number of
three, in the wantonness of his youth. I only remarked that he
did make efforts often tremendous ones. " But the efforts," I
said, " never come to much ; the only things that come to much
are the abandonments, the surrenders."
" And how much do they come to ? "
"I ve told you before that your questions are terrible ! They
come, these mere exercises of genius, to a great body of poetry, of
philosophy, a notable mass of speculation, of discovery. The
genius is there, you see, to meet the surrender ; but there s no
genius to support the defence."
" But what is there, after all, at his age, to show ? "
" In the way of achievement recognised and reputation estab
lished ? " I interrupted. " To * show if you will, there isn t
much, for his writing, mostly, isn t as fine as his talk. Moreover,
two-thirds of his work are merely colossal projects and announce
ments. Showing Frank Saltram is often a poor business ; we
endeavoured, you will have observed, to show him to-night !
However, if he had lectured, he would have lectured divinely. It
would just have been his talk."
" And what would his talk just have been ? "
I was conscious of some ineffectiveness as well perhaps as of a
little impatience as I replied : " The exhibition of a splendid
intellect." My young lady looked not quite satisfied at this, but
as I was not prepared for another question I hastily pursued :
" The sight of a great suspended, swinging crystal, huge, lucid,
lustrous, a block of light, flashing back every impression of life and
306 The Coxon Fund
every possibility of thought ! This gave her something to think
about till we had passed out to the dusky porch of the hall, in
front of which the lamps of a quiet brougham were almost the
only thing Saltram s treachery hadn t extinguished. I went with
her to the door of her carriage, out of which she leaned a moment
after she had thanked me and taken her seat. Her smile even in
the darkness was pretty. " I do want to see that crystal ! "
" You ve only to come to the next lecture."
"I go abroad in a day or two with my aunt."
" Wait over till next week," I suggested. " It s worth it."
She became grave. " Not unless he really comes ! " At
which the brougham started oft", carrying her away too fast,
fortunately for my manners, to allow me to exclaim " Ingra
Mrs. Saltram made a great affair of her right to be informed
where her husband had been the second evening he failed to meet
his audience. She came to me to ascertain, but I couldn t satisfy
her, for in spite of my ingenuity I remained in ignorance. It
was not till much later that I found this had not been the case
with Kent Mulville, whose hope for the best never twirled its
thumbs more placidly than when he happened to know the worst.
He had known it on the occasion I speak of that is immediately
after. He was impenetrable then, but he ultimately confessed
more than I shall venture to confess to-day. It was of course
familiar to me that Saltram was incapable of keeping the engage
ments which, after their separation, he had entered into with
regard to his wife, a deeply wronged, justly resentful, quite irre
By Henry James 307
proachable and insufferable person. She often appeared at my
chambers to talk over his lacunce, for if, as she declared, she had
washed her hands of him, she had carefully preserved the water of
this ablution and she handed it about for inspection. She had
arts of her own of exciting one s impatience, the most infallible of
which was perhaps her assumption that we were kind to her
because we liked her. In reality her personal fall had been a sort
of social rise, for there had been a moment when, in our little
conscientious circle, her desolation almost made her the fashion.
Her voice was grating and her children ugly ; moreover she hated
the good Mulvilles, whom I more and more loved. They were
the people who by doing most for her husband had in the long
run done most for herself; and the warm confidence with which
he had laid his length upon them was a pressure gentle compared
with her stiffer pcrsuadability. I am bound to say he didn t
criticise his benefactors, though practically he got tired of them ;
she, however, had the highest standards about eleemosynary forms.
She offered the odd spectacle of a spirit puffed up by dependence,
and indeed it had introduced her to some excellent society. She
pitied me for not knowing certain people who aided her and
whom she doubtless patronised in turn for their luck in not
knowing me. I daresay I should have got on with her better if
she had had a ray of imagination if it had occasionally seemed to
occur to her to regard Saltram s manifestations in any other
manner than as separate subjects of woe. They were all flowers
of his nature, pearls strung on an endless thread ; but she had a
stubborn little way of challenging them one after the other, as if
she never suspected that he bad a nature, such as it was, or
that deficiencies might be organic ; the irritating effect of a mind
incapable of a generalisation. One might doubtless have overdone
the idea that there was a general exemption for such a man ; but
308 The Coxon Fund
if this had happened it would have been through one s feeling that
there could be none for such a woman.
I recognised her superiority when I asked her about the aunt of
the disappointed young lady : it sounded like a sentence from a
phrase-book. She triumphed in what she told me and she may
have triumphed still more in what she withheld. My friend of
the other evening, Miss Anvoy, had but lately come to England ;
Lady Coxon, the aunt, had been established here for years in
consequence of her marriage with the late Sir Gregory of that ilk.
She had a house in the Regent s Park and a Bath-chair and a
page ; and above all she had sympathy. Mrs. Saltram had made
her acquaintance through mutual friends. This vagueness caused
me to feel how much I was out of it and how large an inde
pendent circle Mrs. Saltram had at her command. I should have
been glad to know more about the charming Miss Anvoy, but I
felt that I should know most by not depriving her of her advantage,
as she might have mysterious means of depriving me of my
knowledge. For the present, moreover, this experience was
arrested, Lady Coxon having in fact gone abroad, accompanied by
her niece. The niece, besides being immensely clever, was an
heiress, Mrs. Saltram said ; the only daughter and the light of
the eyes of some great American merchant, a man, over there, of
endless indulgences and dollars. She had pretty clothes and pretty
manners, and she had, what was prettier still, the great thing of
all. The great thing of all for Mrs. Saltram was always sym
pathy, and she spoke as if during the absence of these ladies she
might not know where to turn for it. A few months later
indeed, when they had come back, her tone perceptibly changed :
she alluded to them, on my leading her up to it, rather as to
persons in her debt for favours received. What had happened I
didn t know, but I saw it would take only a little more or a little
By Henry James 309
less to make her speak of them as thankless subjects of social
countenance people for whom she had vainly tried to do some
thing. I confess I saw that it would not be in a mere week or
two that I should rid myself of the image of Ruth Anvoy, in whose
very name, when I learnt it, I found something secretly to like.
I should probably neither see her nor hear of her again : the knight s
widow (he had been mayor of Clockborough) would pass away,
and the heiress would return to her inheritance. I gathered with
surprise that she had not communicated to his wife the story of
her attempt to hear Mr. Saltram, and I founded this reticence on
the easy supposition that Mrs. Saltram had fatigued by over
pressure the spring of the sympathy of which she boasted.
The girl at any rate would forget the small adventure, be
distracted, take a husband ; besides which she would lack oppor
tunity to repeat her experiment.
We clung to the idea of the brilliant course, delivered without
a tumble, that, as a lecturer, would still make the paying public
aware of our great mind ; but the fact remained that in the case
of an inspiration so unequal there was treachery, there was fallacy
at least, in the very conception of a series. In our scrutiny of
ways and means we were inevitably subject to the old convention
of the synopsis, the syllabus, partly of course not to lose the
advantage of his grand free hand in drawing up such things ; but
for myself I laughed at our categories even while I stickled for
them. It was indeed amusing work to be scrupulous for Frank
Saltram, who also at moments laughed about it, so far as the rise
and fall of a luxurious sigh might pass for such a sound. He ad
mitted with a candour all his own that he was in truth only to be
depended on in the Mulvilles drawing-room. " Yes," he suggest
ively conceded, " it s there, I think, that I am at my best ; quite
late, when it gets toward eleven and if I ve not been too much
310 The Coxon Fund
worried." We all knew what too much worry meant ; it meant
too enslaved for the hour to the superstition of sobriety. On the
Saturdays I used to bring my portmanteau, so as not to have
to think of eleven o clock trains. I had a bold theory that
as regards this temple of talk and its altars of cushioned chintz, its
pictures and its flowers, its large fireside and clear lamplight, we
might really arrive at something if the Mulvilles would only
charge for admission. But here it was that the Mulvilles shame
lessly broke down ; as there is a flaw in every perfection, this was
the inexpugnable refuge of their egotism. They declined to
make their saloon a market, so that Saltram s golden words con
tinued to be the only coin that rang there. It can have happened
to no man, however, to be paid a greater price than such an
enchanted hush as surrounded him on his greatest nights. The
most profane, on these occasions, felt a presence ; all minor elo
quence grew dumb. Adelaide Mulville, for the pride of her
hospitality, anxiously watched the door or stealthily poked the
fire. I used to call it the music-room, for we had anticipated
Bayreuth. The very gates of the kingdom of light seemed to
open and the horizon of thought to flash with the beauty of a
sunrise at sea.
In the consideration of ways and means, the sittings of our little
board, we were always conscious of the creak of Mrs. Saltram s
shoes. She hovered, she interrupted, she almost presided, the state
of affairs being mostly such as to supply her with every incentive
for inquiring what was to be done next. It was the pressing
pursuit of this knowledge that, in concatenations of omnibuses and
usually in very wet weather, led her so often to my door. She
thought us spiritless creatures with editors and publishers ; but she
carried matters to no great effect when she personally pushed into
back-shops. She wanted all moneys to be paid to herself; they
By Henry James 31 1
were otherwise liable to such strange adventures. They trickled
away into the desert, and they were mainly at best, alas, but a
slender stream. The editors and the publishers were the last people
to take this remarkable thinker at the valuation that has now pretty
well come to be established. The former were half distraught
between the desire to "cut" him and the difficulty of finding a
crevice for their shears ; and when a volume on this or that por
tentous subject was proposed to the latter they suggested alternative
titles which, as reported to our friend, brought into his face the
noble blank melancholy that sometimes made it handsome. The
title of an unwritten book didn t after all much matter, but some
masterpiece of Saltram s may have died in his bosom of the shudder
with which it was then convulsed. The ideal solution, failing the
fee at Kent Mulville s door, would have been some system of
subscription to projected treatises with their non-appearance
provided for provided for, I mean, by the indulgence of sub
scribers. The author s real misfortune was that subscribers were
so wretchedly literal. When they tastelessly inquired why
publication had not ensued I was tempted to ask who in the world
had ever been so published. Nature herself had brought him out
in voluminous form, and the money was simply a deposit on
borrowing the work.
I was doubtless often a nuisance to my friends in those years ;
but there were sacrifices I declined to make, and I never passed
the hat to George Gravener. I never forgot our little discussion
in Ebury Street, and I think it stuck in my throat to have to
make to him the admission I had made so easily to Miss Anvoy.
312 The Coxon Fund
It had cost me nothing to confide to this charming girl, but it
would have cost me much to confide to the friend of my youth,
that the character of the " real gentleman " was not an attribute of
the man I took such pains for. Was this because I had already
generalised to the point of perceiving that women are really the
unfastidious sex ? I knew at any rate that Gravener, already
quite in view but still hungry and frugal, had naturally enough
more ambition than charity. He had sharp aims for stray
sovereigns, being in view most from the tall steeple of Clock-
borough. His immediate ambition was to wholly occupy the field
of vision of that smokily-seeing city, and all his movements and
postures were calculated at this angle. The movement of the
hand to the pocket had thus to alternate gracefully with the posture
of the hand on the heart. He talked to Clockborough in short
only less beguilingly than Frank Saltram talked to his electors ;
with the difference in our favour, however, that we had already
voted and that our candidate had no antagonist but himself. He
had more than once been at Wimbledon it was Mrs. Mulville s
work, not mine and, by the time the claret was served, had seen
the god descend. He took more pains to swing his censer than I
had expected, but on our way back to town he forestalled any little
triumph I might have been so artless as to express by the obser
vation that such a man was a hundred times ! a man to use
and never a man to be used by. I remember that this neat remark
humiliated me almost as much as if virtually, in the fever of broken
slumbers, I hadn t often made it myself. The difference was that
on Gravener s part a force attached to it that could never attach
to it on mine. He was able to use him in short, he had the
machinery ; and the irony of Saltram s being made showy at
Clockborough came out to me when he said, as if he had no
memory of our original talk and the idea were quite fresh to him :
By Henry James 313
" I hate his type, you know, but I ll be hanged if I don t put some
of those things in. I can find a place for them : we might even
find a place for the fellow himself." I myself should have had some
fear, not, I need scarcely say, for the " things " themselves, but for
some other things very near them in fine for the rest of my
Later on I could see that the oracle of Wimbledon was not in
this case so serviceable as he would have been had the politics of
the gods only coincided more exactly with those of the party.
There was a distinct moment when, without saying anything more
definite to me, Gravener entertained the idea of "getting hold"
of Mr. Saltram. Such a project was factitious, for the discovery
of analogies between his body of doctrine and that pressed from
headquarters upon Clockborough the bottling, in a word, of the
air of those lungs for convenient public uncorking in corn-
exchanges was an experiment for which no one had the leisure.
The only thing would have been to carry him massively about,
paid, caged, clipped : to turn him on for a particular occasion in a
particular channel. Frank Saltram s channel, however, was
essentially not calculable, and there was no knowing what disas
trous floods might have issued. For what there would have been
to do " The Empire," the great newspaper, was there to look to ;
but it was no new misfortune that there were delicate situations in
which " The Empire " broke down. In fine there was an
instinctive apprehension that a clever young journalist commis
sioned to report upon Mr. Saltram might never come back from
the errand. No one knew better than George Gravener that that
was a time when prompt returns counted double. If he therefore
found our friend an exasperating waste of orthodoxy, it was because
he was, as he said, up in the clouds ; not because he was down in
the dust. He would have been a real enough gentleman if he
314 The Coxon Fund
could have helped to put in a real gentleman. Gravener s great
objection to the actual member was that he was not one.
Lady Coxon had a fine old house, a house with " grounds," at
Clockborough, which she had let ; but after she returned from
abroad I learned from Mrs. Saltram that the lease had fallen in and
that she had gone down to resume possession. I could see the
faded red livery, the big square shoulders, the high-walled garden
of this decent abode. As the rumble of dissolution grew louder
the suitor would have pressed his suit, and I found myself hoping
that the politics of the late Mayor s widow would not be such as
to enjoin upon her to ask him to dinner ; perhaps indeed I went
so far as to hope that they would be such as to put all countenance
out of the question. I tried to focus the page, in the daily airing,
as he perhaps even pushed the Bath-chair over somebody s toes.
I was destined to hear, however, through Mrs. Saltram (who, I
afterwards learned, was in correspondence with Lady Coxon s
housekeeper), that Gravener was known to have spoken of the
habitation I had in my eye as the pleasantest thing at Clock-
borough. On his part, I was sure, this was the voice not of envy
but of experience. The vivid scene was now peopled, and I
could see him in the old-time garden with Miss Anvoy, who
would be certain, and very justly, to think him good-looking. It
would be too much to say that I was troubled by such an image ;
but I seem to remember the relief, singular enough, of feeling it
suddenly brushed away by an annoyance really much greater j an
annoyance the result of its happening to come over me about that
time with a rush that I was simply ashamed of Frank Saltram.
There were limits after all, and my mark at last had been reached.
I had had my disgusts, if I may allow myself to-day such an
expression ; but this was a supreme revolt. Certain things cleared
up in my mind, certain values stood out. It was all very well to
By Henry James 315
talk of an unfortunate temperament ; there were misfortunes that
people should themselves correct, and correct in private, without
calling in assistance. I avoided George Gravener at this moment,
and reflected that at such a time I should do so most effectually
by leaving England. I wanted to forget Frank Saltram that was
all. I didn t want to do anything in the world to him but that.
Indignation had withered on the stalk, and I felt that one could
pity him as much as one ought only by never thinking of him
again. It wasn t for anything he had done to me ; it was for
something he had done to the Mulvilles. Adelaide cried about it
for a week, and her husband, profiting by the example so signally
given him of the fatal effect of a want of character, left the letter
unanswered. The letter, an incredible one, addressed by Saltram
to Wimbledon during a stay with the Pudneys at Ramsgate, was
the central feature of the incident, which, however, had many
features, each more painful than whichever other we compared
it with. The Pudneys had behaved shockingly, but that was
no excuse. Base ingratitude, gross indecency one had one s
choice only of such formulas as that the more they fitted the
less they gave one rest. These are dead aches now, and I am
under no obligation, thank heaven, to be definite about the busi
ness. There are things which if I had had to tell them well, I
wouldn t have told my story.
I went abroad for the general election, and if I don t know how
much, on the Continent, I forgot, I at least know how much I
missed, him. At a distance, in a foreign land, ignoring, abjuring,
unlearning him, I discovered what he had done for me. I owed
him, oh unmistakably, certain noble conceptions ; I had lighted
my little taper at his smoky lamp, and lo, it continued to twinkle.
But the light it gave me just showed me how much more I
wanted. I was pursued of course by letters from Mrs. Saltram,
The Yellow Book Vol. II. s which
316 The Coxon Fund
which I didn t scruple not to read, though I was duly conscious
that her embarrassments would now be of the gravest. I sacrificed
to propriety by simply putting them away, and this is how, one
day as my absence drew to an end, my eye, as I rummaged in my
desk for another paper, was caught by a name on a leaf that had
detached itself from the packet. The allusion was to Miss Anvoy,
who, it appeared, was engaged to be married to Mr. George
Gravener ; and the news was two months old. A direct question
of Mrs. Saltram s had thus remained unanswered she had in
quired of me in a postscript what sort of man this Mr. Gravener
might be. This Mr. Gravener had been triumphantly returned
for Clockborough, in the interest of the party that had swept the
country, so that I might easily have referred Mrs. Saltram to the
journals of the day. But when I at last wrote to her that I was
coming home and would discharge my accumulated burden by
seeing her, I remarked in regard to her question that she must
really put it to Miss Anvoy.
I had almost avoided the general election, but some of its con
sequences, on my return, had squarely to be faced. The season,
in London, began to breathe again and to flap its folded wings.
Confidence, under the new ministry, was understood to be reviving,
and one of the symptoms, in the social body, was a recovery of
appetite. People once more fed together, and it happened that,
one Saturday night, at somebody s house, I fed with George
Gravener. When the ladies left the room I moved up to where
he sat and offered him my congratulation. " On my election ? "
he asked after a moment ; whereupon I feigned, jocosely not to
By Henry James 317
have heard of his election and to be alluding to something much
more important, the rumour of his engagement. I daresay I
coloured however, for his political victory had momentarily passed
out of my mind. What was present to it was that he was to
marry that beautiful girl ; and yet his question made me conscious
of some embarrassment I had not intended to put that before
everything. He himself indeed ought gracefully to have done so,
and I remember thinking the whole man was in this assumption,
that in expressing my sense of what he had won I had fixed my
thoughts on his " seat." We straightened the matter out, and he
was so much lighter in hand than I had lately seen him that his
spirits might well have been fed from a double source. He was so
good as to say that he hoped I should soon make the acquaintance
of Miss Anvoy, who, with her aunt, was presently coming up to
town. Lady Coxon, in the country, had been seriously unwell,
and this had delayed their arrival. I told him I had heard the
marriage would be a splendid one ; on which, brightened and
humanised by his luck, he laughed and said : " Do you mean for
her ? When I had again explained what I meant he went on :
" Oh, she s an American, but you d scarcely know it ; unless,
perhaps," he added, " by her being used to more money than
most girls in England, even the daughters of rich men. That
wouldn t in the least do for a fellow like me, you know, if it wasn t
for the great liberality of her father. He really has been most
kind, and everything is quite satisfactory." He added that his
eldest brother had taken a tremendous fancy to her and that
during a recent visit at Coldfield she had nearly won over Lady
Maddock. I gathered from something he dropped later that the
free-handed gentleman beyond the seas had not made a settlement,
but had given a handsome present and was apparently to be looked
to, across the water, for other favours. People are simplified alike
318 The Coxon Fund
by great contentments and great yearnings, and whether or no it
was Gravener s directness that begot my own, I seem to recall
that in some turn taken by our talk he almost imposed it upon me
as an act of decorum to ask if Miss Anvoy had also by chance
expectations from her aunt. My inquiry elicited that Lady
Coxon, who was the oddest of women, would have in any con
tingency to act under her late husband s will, which was odder
still, saddling her with a mass of queer obligations intermingled
with queer loopholes. There were several dreary people, Coxon
relations, old maids, whom she would have more or less to con
sider. Gravener laughed, without saying no, when I suggested
that the young lady might come in through a loophole ; then
suddenly, as if he suspected that I had turned a lantern on him, he
exclaimed quite dryly : " That s all rot one is moved by other
springs ! "
A fortnight later, at Lady Coxon s own house, I understood
well enough the springs one was moved by. Gravener had
spoken of me there as an old friend, and I received a gracious
invitation to dine. The knight s widow was again indisposed
she had succumbed at the eleventh hour ; so that I found Miss
Anvoy bravely playing hostess, without even Gravener s help,
inasmuch as, to make matters worse, he had just sent up word
that the House, the insatiable House, with which he supposed he
had contracted for easier terms, positively declined to release him.
I was struck with the courage, the grace and gaiety of the young
lady left to deal unaided with the possibilities of the Regent s
Park. I did what I could to help her to keep them down, or up,
after I had recovered from the confusion of seeing her slightly dis
concerted at perceiving in the guest introduced by her intended
the gentleman with whom she had had that talk about Frank
Saltram. I had at that moment my first glimpse of the fact that
By Henry James 319
she was a person who could carry a responsibility ; but Heave the
reader to judge of my sense of the aggravation, for either of us, of
such a burden when I heard the servant announce Mrs. Saltram.
From what immediately passed between the two ladies I gathered
that the latter had been sent for post-haste to fill the gap created
by the absence of the mistress of the house. " Good ! " I
exclaimed, " she will be put by me! " and my apprehension was
promptly justified. Mrs. Saltram taken into dinner, and taken in
as a consequence of an appeal to her amiability, was Mrs.
Saltram with a vengeance. I asked myself what Miss Anvoy
meant by doing such things, but the only answer I arrived at was
that Gravener was verily fortunate. She had not happened to tell
him of her visit to Upper Baker Street, but she would certainly
tell him to-morrow ; not indeed that this would make him like any
better her having had the simplicity to invite such a person as
Mrs. Saltram on such an occasion. I reflected that I had never
seen a young woman put such ignorance into her cleverness, such
freedom into her modesty : this, I think, was when, after dinner,
she said to me frankly, with almost jubilant mirth : "Oh, you
don t admire Mrs. Saltram ! " Why should I ? She was truly an
innocent maiden. I had briefly to consider before I could reply
that my objection to the lady in question was the objection often
formulated in regard to persons met at the social board I knew
all her stories. Then, as Miss Anvoy remained momentarily
vague, I added : "About her husband."
" Oh yes, but there are some new ones."
"None for me. Oh, novelty would be pleasant !"
" Doesn t it appear that of late he has been particularly
horrid ? "
"His fluctuations don t matter," I replied; "they are all
covered by the single circumstance I mentioned the evening we
320 The Coxon Fund
waited for him together. What will you have ? He has no
Miss Anvoy, who had been introducing with her American
distinctness, looked encouragingly round at some of the combina
tions she had risked. " It s too bad I can t see him."
" You mean Gravener won t let you ? "
"I haven t asked him. He lets me do everything."
" But you know he knows him and wonders what some of us
see in him."
" We haven t happened to talk of him," the girl said.
" Get him to take you some day out to see the Mulvilles."
" I thought Mr. Saltram had thrown the Mulvilles over."
"Utterly. But that won t prevent his being planted there
again, to bloom like a rose, within a month or two."
Miss Anvoy thought a moment. Then, " I should like to see
them," she said with her fostering smile.
" They re tremendously worth it. You mustn t miss them."
"I ll make George take me," she went on as Mrs. Saltram
came up to interrupt us. The girl smiled at her as kindly as she
had smiled at me, and addressing the question to her, continued :
" But the chance of a lecture one of the wonderful lectures ?
Isn t there another course announced ! "
"Another? There are about thirty!" I exclaimed, turning
away and feeling Mrs. Saltram s little eyes in my back. A few
days after this, I heard that Gravener s marriage was near at
hand was settled for Whitsuntide ; but as I had received
no invitation I doubted it, and presently there came to me in
fact the report of a postponement. Something was the matter ;
what was the matter was supposed to be that Lady Coxon
was now critically ill. I had called on her after my dinner in
the Regent s Park, but I had neither seen her nor seen Miss
By Henry James 321
Anvoy. I forget to-day the exact order in which, at this period,
certain incidents occurred and the particular stage at which it
suddenly struck me, making me catch my breath a little, that the
progression, the acceleration was for all the world that of a drama.
This was probably rather late in the day, and the exact order
doesn t matter. What had already occurred was some accident
determining a more patient wait. George Gravener, whom I
met again, in fact told me as much, but without signs of pertur
bation. Lady Coxon had to be constantly attended to, and
there were other good reasons as well. Lady Coxon had to be
so constantly attended to that on the occasion of a second attempt
in the Regent s Park I equally failed to obtain a sight of her
niece. I judged it discreet under the circumstances not to
make a third ; but this didn t matter, for it was through Adelaide
Mulville that the side-wind of the comedy, though I was at
first unwitting, began to reach me. I went to Wimbledon
at times because Saltram was there and I went at others
because he was not. The Pudneys, who had taken him to
Birmingham, had already got rid of him, and we had a horrible
consciousness of his wandering roofless, in dishonour, about the
smoky Midlands, almost as the injured Lear wandered on the
storm-lashed heath. His room, upstairs, had been lately done up
(I could hear the crackle of the new chintz), and the difference
only made his smirches and bruises, his splendid tainted genius, the
more tragic. If he wasn t barefoot in the mire, he was sure to be
unconventionally shod. These were the things Adelaide and I, who
were old enough friends to stare at each other in silence, talked
about when we didn t speak. When we spoke it was only about
the charming girl George Gravener was to marry, whom he had
brought out the other Sunday. I could see that this introduction
had been happy, for Mrs. Mulville commemorated it in the only
322 The Coxon Fund
way in which she ever expressed her confidence in a new relation.
"She likes me she likes me": her native humility exulted in
that measure of success. We all knew for ourselves how she
liked those who liked her, and as regards Ruth Anvoy she was
more easily won over than Lady Maddock.
One of the consequences, for the Mulville?, of the sacrifices
they made for Frank Saltram was that they had to give up their
carriage. Adelaide drove gently into London in a one-horse
greenish thing, an early Victorian landau, hired, near at hand,
imaginatively, from a broken-down jobmaster whose wife was in
consumption a vehicle that made people turn round all the more
when her pensioner sat beside her in a soft white hat and a shawl,
one of her own. This was his position and I daresay his costume
when on an afternoon in July she went to return Miss Anvoy s
visit. The wheel of fate had now revolved, and amid silences
deep and exhaustive, compunctions and condonations alike unutter
able, Saltram was reinstated. Was it in pride or in penance that
Mrs. Mulville began immediately to drive him about ? If he was
ashamed of his ingratitude she might have been ashamed of her
forgiveness ; but she was incorrigibly capable of liking him to be
seen strikingly seated in the landau while she was in shops or
with her acquaintance. However, if he was in the pillory for
twenty minutes in the Regent s Park (I mean at Lady Coxon s
door, while her companion paid her call), it was not for the further
humiliation of any one concerned that she presently came out for
him in person, not even to show either of them what a fool she was
By Henry James 323
that she drew him in to be introduced to the clever young Ameri
can. Her account of this introduction I had in its order, but
before that, very late in the season, under Gravener s auspices, I
met Miss Anvoy at tea at the House of Commons. The member
for Clockborough had gathered a group of pretty ladies, and the
Mulvilles were not of the party. On the great terrace, as I
strolled off a little with her, the guest of honour immediately
exclaimed to me : " I ve seen him, you know I ve seen him ! "
She told me about Saltram s call.
"And how did you find him ? "
"Ob, so strange !"
"You didn t like him?"
"I can t tell till I see him again."
" You want to do that ? "
She was silent a moment. "Immensely."
We stopped ; I fancied she had become aware Gravener was
looking at us. She turned back toward the knot of the others,
and I said: "Dislike him as much as you will I see you re
" Bitten ? " I thought she coloured a little.
" Oh, it doesn t matter ! " I laughed ; " one doesn t die of it."
" I hope I sha n t die of anything before I ve seen more of
Mrs. Mulville." I rejoiced with her over plain Adelaide, whom
she pronounced the loveliest woman she had met in England ; but
before we separated I remarked to her that it was an act of mere
humanity to warn her that if she should see more of Frank Saltram
(which would be likely to follow on any increase of acquaintance
with Mrs. Mulville), she might find herself flattening her nose
against the clear hard pane of an eternal question that of the
relative importance of virtue. She replied that this was surely
a subject on which one took everything for granted ; whereupon
324 The Coxon Fund
I admitted that I had perhaps expressed myself ill. What I
referred to was what I had referred to the night we met in Upper
Baker Street the importance relative (relative to virtue) of other
gifts. She asked me if I called virtue a gift as if it were handed
to us in a parcel on our birthday ; and I declared that this very
question showed me the problem had already caught her by the
skirt. She would have help however, help that I myself had once
had, in resisting its tendency to make one cross.
" What help do you mean ? "
" That of the member for Clockborough."
She stared, smiled, then exclaimed : " Why, my idea has been
to help him ! "
She had helped him I had his own word for it that at Clock-
borough her bedevilment of the voters had really put him in. She
would do so doubtless again and again, but I heard the very next
month that this fine faculty had undergone a temporary eclipse.
News of the catastrophe first came to me from Mrs. Saltram, and
it was afterwards confirmed at Wimbledon : poor Miss Anvoy
was in trouble great disasters, in America, had suddenly summoned
her home. Her father, in New York, had had reverses lost so
much money that no one knew what mightn t yet come of it.
It was Adelaide who told me that she had gone off, alone, at less
than a week s notice.
" Alone ? Gravener has permitted that ? "
" What will you have ? The House of Commons ? "
I m afraid I damned the House of Commons : I was so much
interested. Of course he would follow her as soon as he was
free to make her his wife ; only she mightn t now be able to
bring him anything like the marriage-portion of which he had
begun by having the pleasant confidence. Mrs. Mulville let me
know what was already said : she was charming, this Miss Anvoy,
By Henry James 325
but really these American girls ! What was a man to do ?
Mr. Saltram, according to Mrs. Mulville, was of opinion that a
man was never to suffer his relation to money to become a spiritual
relation, but was to keep it wholesomely mechanical. " Moi pas
comprendre ! I commented on this; in rejoinder to which
Adelaide, with her beautiful sympathy, explained that she supposed
he simply meant that the thing was to use it, don t you know ! but
not to think too much about it. " To take it, but not to thank
you for it ? " I still more profanely inquired. For a quarter of an
hour afterwards she wouldn t look at me, but this didn t prevent my
asking her what had been the result, that afternoon in the Regent s
Park, of her taking our friend to see Miss Anvoy.
" Oh, so charming ! " she answered, brightening. " He said he
recognised in her a nature he could absolutely trust."
" Yes, but I m speaking of the effect on herself."
Mrs. Mulville was silent an instant. " It was everything one
Something in her tone made me laugh. Do you mean she
gave him something ? "
" Well, since you ask me ! "
" Right there on the spot ? "
Again poor Adelaide faltered. " It was to me of course she
I stared ; somehow I couldn t see the scene. " Do you mean a
sum of money ? :
" It was very handsome." Now at last she met my eyes though
I could see it was with an effort. " Thirty pounds."
" Straight out of her pocket ? "
"Out of the drawer of a table at which she had been writing.
She just slipped the folded notes into my hand. He wasn t look
ing ; it was while he was going back to the carriage. " Oh," said
326 The Coxon Fund
Adelaide reassuringly, " I dole it out ! " The dear practical soul
thought my agitation, for I confess I was agitated, had reference
to the administration of the money. Her disclosure made me for
a moment muse violently, and I daresay that during that moment
I wondered if anything else in the world makes people as indelicate
as unselfishnes?. I uttered, I suppose, some vague synthetic cry,
for she went on as if she had had a glimpse of my inward amaze
at such episodes. " I assure you, my dear friend, he was in one of
his happy hours."
But I wasn t thinking of that. " Truly, indeed, these American
girls ! " I said. "With her father in the very act, as it were, of
cheating her betrothed ! "
Mrs. Mulville stared. " Oh, I suppose Mr. Anvoy has scarcely
failed on purpose. Very likely they won t be able to keep it up,
but there it was, and it was a very beautiful impulse."
" You say Saltram was very fine ? "
" Beyond everything. He surprised even me."
" And I know what youve heard." After a moment I added :
" Had he peradventure caught a glimpse of the money in the table-
drawers I "
At this my companion honestly flushed. " How can you be so
cruel when you know how little he calculates I"
" Forgive me, I do know it. But you tell me things that act on
my nerves. I m sure he hadn t caught a glimpse of anything but
some splendid idea."
Mrs. Mulville brightly concurred. " And perhaps even of her
beautiful listening face."
"Perhaps, even ! And what was it all about I"
" His talk 1 It was a propos of her engagement, which I had
told him about : the idea of marriage, the philosophy, the poetry,
the profundity of it." It was impossible wholly to restrain one s
By Henry James 327
mirth at this, and some rude ripple that I emitted again caused my
companion to admonish me. " It sounds a little stale, but you
know his freshness."
" Of illustration ? Indeed I do ! "
" And how he has always been right on that great question."
"On what great question, dear lady, hasn t he been right ?"
"Of what other great men can you equally say it ? I mean that
he has never, but never, had a deviation ? " Mrs. Mulville exultantly
I tried to think of some other great man, but I had to give it
up. " Didn t Miss Anvoy express her satisfaction in any less
diffident way than by her charming present ? " I was reduced to
"Oh yes, she overflowed to me on the steps while he was getting
into the carriage." These words somehow brushed up a picture
of Saltram s big shawled back as he hoisted himself into the green
landau. " She said she was not disappointed," Adelaide pursued.
I meditated a moment. " Did he wear his shawl ?
" His shawl ? " She had not even noticed.
"I mean yours."
"He looked very nice, and you know he s always clean. Miss
Anvoy used such a remarkable expression she said his mind is like
a crystal ! "
I pricked up my ears. " A crystal ? "
"Suspended in the moral world swinging and shining and
flashing there. She s monstrously clever, you know."
I reflected again. " Monstrously ! "
328 The Coxon Fund
George Gravener didn t follow her, for late in September, after
the House had risen, I met him in a railway-carriage. He was
coming up from Scotland, and I had just quitted the abode of a
relation who lived near Durham. The current of travel back to
London was not yet strong ; at any rate on entering the compart
ment I found he had had it for some time to himself. We fared
in company, and though he had a blue-book in his lap and the
open jaws of his bag threatened me with the white teeth of con
fused papers, we inevitably, we even at last sociably, conversed. I
saw that things were not well with him, but I asked no question
until something dropped by himself made an absence of curiosity
almost rude. He mentioned that he was worried about his good
old friend Lady Coxon, who, with her niece likely to be detained
some time in America, lay seriously ill at Clockborough, much on
his mind and on his hands.
"Ah, Miss Anvoy s in America?"
" Her father has got into a horrid mess, lost no end of money."
I hesitated, after expressing due concern, but I presently said,
" I hope that raises no obstacle to your marriage."
"None whatever; moreover it s my trade to meet objections.
But it may create tiresome delays, of which there have been too
many, from various causes, already. Lady Coxon got very bad,
then she got much better. Then Mr. Anvoy suddenly began to
totter, and now he seems quite on his back. I m afraid he s
really in for some big disaster. Lady Coxon is worse again,
awfully upset by the news from America, and she sends me word
By Henry James 329
that she must have Ruth. How can I give her Ruth ? I haven t
got Ruth myself ! "
" Surely you haven t lost her," I smiled.
" She s everything to her wretched father. She writes me by
every post, telling me to smooth her aunt s pillow. I ve other
things to smooth ; but the old lady, save for her servants, is really
alone. She won t receive her Coxon relations, because she s angry
at so much of her money going to them. Besides, she s off her
head," said Gravener very frankly.
I don t remember whether it was this, or what it was, that
made me ask if she had not such an appreciation of Mrs. Saltram
as might render that active person of some use.
He gave me a cold glance, asking me what had put Mrs. Saltram
into my head, and I replied that she was unfortunately never out of
it. I happened to remember the wonderful accounts she had given
me of the kindness Lady Coxon had shown her. Gravener
declared this to be false : Lady Coxon, who didn t care for her,
hadn t seen her three times. The only foundation for it was that
Miss Anvoy, who used, poor girl, to chuck money about in a
manner she must now regret, had for an hour seen in the miserable
woman (you could never know what she would see in people), an
interesting pretext for the liberality with which her nature
overflowed. But even Miss Anvoy was now quite tired of her.
Gravener told me more about the crash in New York and the
annoyance it had been to him, and we also glanced here and there
in other directions; but by the time we got to Doncaster the
principal thing he had communicated was that he was keeping
something back. We stopped at that station, and, at the carriage
door, some one made a movement to get in. Gravener uttered a
sound of impatience, and I said to myself that but for this I should
have had the secret. Then the intruder, for some reason, spared
33 The Coxon Fund
us his company ; we started afresh, and my hope of the secret
returned. Gravener remained silent however, and I pretended to
go to sleep ; in fact, in discouragement, I really dozed. When I
opened my eyes I found he was looking at me with an injured air.
He tossed away with some vivacity the remnant of a cigarette and
then he said : " If you re not too sleepy I want to put you a case."
I answered that I would make every effort to attend, and I felt
it was going to be interesting when he went on : " As I told you
a while ago, Lady Coxon, poor dear, is a maniac." His tone had
much behind it was full of promise. 1 inquired if her ladyship s
misfortune were a feature of her malady or only of her character,
and he replied that it was a product of both. The case he wanted
to put me was a matter on which it would interest him to have
the impression the judgment, he might also say of another
person. "I mean of the average intelligent man," he said : " but
you see I take what I can get." There would be the technical,
the strictly legal view ; then there would be the way the question
would strike a man of the world. He had lighted another
cigarette while he talked, and I saw he was glad to have it to
handle when he brought out at last, with a laugh slightly artificial :
" In fact it s a subject on which Miss Anvoy and I are pulling
" And you want me to pronounce between you ? I pronounce
in advance for Miss Anvoy."
" In advance that s quite right. That s how I pronounced
when I asked her to marry me. But my story will interest you
only so far as your mind is not made up." Gravener puffed his
cigarette a minute and then continued : " Are you familiar with
the idea of the Endowment of Research ? "
" Of Research ? " I was at sea for a moment.
" I give you Lady Coxon s phrase. She has it on the brain."
By Henry James 331
" She wishes to endow - ? "
" Some earnest and disinterested seeker," Gravener said. " It
was a half-baked plan of her late husband s, and he handed it on to
her ; setting apart in his will a sum of money of which she was to
enjoy the interest for life, but of which, should she eventually see
her opportunity the matter was left largely to her discretion-
she would best honour his memory by determining the exemplary
public use. This sum of money, no less than thirteen thousand
pounds, was to be called the Coxon Fund ; and poor Sir Gregory
evidently proposed to himself that the Coxon Fund should cover
his name with glory be universally desired and admired. He left
his wife a full declaration of his views; so far at least as that term
may be applied to views vitiated by a vagueness really infantine.
A little learning is a dangerous thing, and a good citizen who
happens to have been an ass is worse for a community than the
small-pox. He s worst of all when he s dead, because then he can t
be stopped. However, such as they were, the poor man s
aspirations are now in his wife s bosom, or fermenting rather in
her foolish brain : it lies with her to carry them out. But of
course she must first catch her hare."
" Her earnest, disinterested seeker ? "
"The man suffering most from want of means, want of the
pecuniary independence necessary to cause the light that is in him
to shine upon the human race. The man, in a word, who,
having the rest of the machinery, the spiritual, the intellectual, is
most hampered in his search."
" His search for what ? "
" For Moral Truth. That s what Sir Gregory calls it."
I burst out laughing. " Delightful, munificent Sir Gregory !
It s a charming idea."
"So Miss Anvoy thinks."
The Yellow Book Vol. II. T " Has
332 The Coxon Fund
" Has she a candidate for the Fund ? "
" Not that I know of; and she s perfectly reasonable about it.
But Lady Coxon has put the matter before her, and we ve
naturally had a lot of talk."
" Talk that, as you ve so interestingly intimated, has landed you
in a disagreement."
"She considers there s something in it," Gravener said.
" And you consider there s nothing ? :
"It seems to me a puerility fraught with consequences in
evitably grotesque and possibly immoral. To begin with, fancy
the idea of constituting an endowment without establishing a
tribunal a bench of competent people, of judges."
" The sole tribunal is Lady Coxon ?
" And any one she chooses to invite."
" But she has invited you."
" I m not competent I hate the thing. Besides, she hasn t.
The real history of the matter, I take it, is that the inspiration
was originally Lady Coxon s own, that she infected him with it,
and that the flattering option left her is simply his tribute to her
beautiful, her aboriginal enthusiasm. She came to England forty
years ago, a thin transcendental Bostonian, and even her odd,
happy, frumpy Clockborough marriage never really materialised
her. She feels indeed that she has become very British as if that,
as a process, as a Werden^ were conceivable ; but it s precisely what
makes her cling to the notion of the Fund as to a link with the
" How can she cling if she s dying ? "
" Do you mean how can she act in the matter ? " my companion
asked. " That s precisely the question. She can t ! As she has
never yet caught her hare, never spied out her lucky impostor
(how should she, with the life she has led ?) her husband s inten
By Henry James 333
tion has come very near lasping. His idea, to do him justice, was
that it should lapse if exactly the right person, the perfect mixture
of genius and chill penury, should fail to turn up. Ah! Lady
Coxon s very particular she says there must be no mistake."
I found all this quite thrilling I took it in with avidity.
" If she dies without doing anything, what becomes of the
money ? " I demanded.
" It goes back to his family, if she hasn t made some other
disposition of it."
u She may do that, then she may divert it ? "
" Her hands are not tied. The proof is that three months ago
she offered to make it over to her niece."
" For Miss Anvoy s own use ? "
" For Miss Anvoy s own use on the occasion of her prospect
ive marriage. She was discouraged the earnest seeker required
so earnest a search. She was afraid of making a mistake ; every
one she could think of seemed either not earnest enough or not
poor enough. On the receipt of the first bad news about Mr.
Anvoy s affairs she proposed to Ruth to make the sacrifice for
her. As the situation in New York got worse she repeated her
"Which Miss Anvoy declined ? "
" Except as a formal trust."
" You mean except as committing herself legally to place the
money ? "
" On the head of the deserving object, the great man frustrated,"
said Gravener. " She only consents to act in the spirit of Sir
Gregory s scheme."
" And you blame her for that ? : I asked with an excited
My tone was not harsh, but he coloured a little and there was a
334 The Coxon Fund
queer light in his eye. " My dear fellow, if I blamed the young
lady I m engaged to, I shouldn t immediately say so even to so old
a friend as you." I saw that some deep discomfort, some restless
desire to be sided with, reassuringly, becomingly reflected, had
been at the bottom of his drifting so far, and I was genuinely
touched by his confidence. It was inconsistent with his habits ;
but being troubled about a woman was not, for him, a habit : that
itself was an inconsistency. George Gravener could stand
straight enough before any other combination of forces. It
amused me to think that the combination he had succumbed to
had an American accent, a transcendental aunt and an insolvent
father ; but all my old loyalty to him mustered to meet this
unexpected hint that I could help him. I saw that I could from
the insincere tone in which he pursued : " I ve criticised her of
course, I ve contended with her, and it has been great fun." It
clearly couldn t have been such great fun as to make it improper
for me presently to ask if Miss Anvoy had nothing at all settled
upon herself. To this he replied that she had only a trifle from
her mother a mere four hundred a year, which was exactly why
it would be convenient to him that she shouldn t decline, in the
face of this total change in her prospects, an accession of income
which would distinctly help them to marry. When I inquired if
there were no other way in which so rich and so affectionate an
aunt could cause the weight of her benevolence to be felt, he
answered that Lady Coxon was affectionate indeed, but was
scarcely to be called rich. She could let her project of the Fund
lapse for her niece s benefit, but she couldn t do anything else.
She had been accustomed to regard her as tremendously provided
for, and she was up to her eyes in promises to anxious Coxons.
She was a woman of an inordinate conscience, and her conscience
was now a distress to her, hovering round her bed in irreconcilable
By Henry James 335
forms of resentful husbands, portionless nieces and undiscoverable
We were by this time getting into the whirr of fleeting plat
forms, the multiplication of lights. " I think you ll find," I said
with a laugh, "that the difficulty will disappear in the very fact
that the philosopher is undiscoverable."
He began to gather up his papers. " Who can set a limit to
the ingenuity of an extravagant woman ? "
" Yes, after all, who indeed ? " I echoed as I recalled the
extravagance commemorated in Mrs. Mulville s anecdote of Miss
Anvoy and the thirty pounds.
The thing I had been most sensible of in that talk with George
Gravener was the way Saltram s name kept out of it. It seemed
to me at the time that we were quite pointedly silent about him ;
yet afterwards I inclined to think that there had been on my
companion s part no conscious avoidance. Later on I was sure
of this, and for the best of reasons the reason, namely, of my
perceiving more completely that, for evil as well as for good,
he left Gravener s imagination utterly cold. Gravener was not
afraid of him ; he was too much disgusted with him. No more
was I, doubtless, and for very much the same reason. I treated
my friend s story as an absolute confidence ; but when before
Christmas, by Mrs. Saltram, I was informed of Lady Coxon s
death without having had news of Miss Anvoy s return, I found
myself taking for granted that we should hear no more of these
nuptials, in which I now recognised an element incongruous from
336 The Coxon Fund
the first. I began to ask myself how people who suited each
other so little could please each other so much. The charm was
some material charm, some affinity exquisite doubtless, but super
ficial ; some surrender to youth and beauty and passion, to force
and grace and fortune, happy accidents and easy contacts. They
might dote on each other s persons, but how could they know each
other s souls ? How could they have the same prejudices, how
could they have the same horizon ? Such questions, I confess,
seemed quenched but not answered when, one day in February,
going out to Wimbledon, I found my young lady in the house.
A passion that had brought her back across the wintry ocean was
as much of a passion as was necessary. No impulse equally strong
indeed had drawn George Gravener to America ; a circumstance
on which, however, I reflected only long enough to remind
myself that it was none of my business. Ruth Anvoy was
distinctly different, and I felt that the difference was not simply
that of her being in mourning. Mrs. Mulville told me soon
enough what it was : it was the difference between a handsome
girl with large expectations and a handsome girl with only four
hundred a year. This explanation indeed didn t wholly content
me, not even when I learned that her mourning had a double
cause learned that poor Mr. Anvoy, giving way altogether,
buried under the ruins of his fortune and leaving next to nothing,
had died a few weeks before.
" So she has come out to marry George Gravener ? " I de
manded. <( Wouldn t it have been prettier of him to have saved
her the trouble ? "
" Hasn t the House just met ? said Adelaide. Then she
added : " I gather that her having come is exactly a sign that the
marriage is a little shaky. If it were certain, so self-respecting a
girl as Ruth would have waited for him over there."
By Henry James 337
I noted that they were already Ruth and Adelaide, but what I
said was : " Do you mean that she has returned to make it a
No, I mean that I imagine she has come out for some reason
independent of it." Adelaide could only imagine as yet, and
there was more, as we found, to be revealed. Mrs. Mulville, on
hearing of her arrival, had brought the young lady out, in the
green landau, for the Sunday. The Coxons were in possession of
the house in the Regent s Park, and Miss Anvoy was in dreary
lodgings. George Gravener was with her when Adelaide called,
but he had assented graciously enough to the little visit at Wim
bledon. The carriage, with Mr. Saltram in it but not mentioned,
had been sent off on some errand from which it was to return and
pick the ladies up. Gravener left them together, and at the end
of an hour, on the Saturday afternoon, the party of three drove out
to Wimbledon. This was the girl s second glimpse of our great
man, and I was interested in asking Mrs. Mulville if the impression
made by the first appeared to have been confirmed. On her
replying, after consideration, that of course with time and oppor
tunity it couldn t fail to be, but that as yet she was disappointed, I
was sufficiently struck with her use of this last word to question
"Do you mean that you re disappointed because you judge that
Miss Anvoy is ? "
" Yes ; I hoped for a greater effect last evening. We had two
or three people, but he scarcely opened his mouth."
" He ll be all the better this evening," I added after a moment.
" What particular importance do you attach to the idea of her
being impressed ? "
Adelaide turned herclear,pale eyes on me as if she were amazed at
my levity. "Why, the importance of her being as happy as we are ! "
338 The Coxon Fund
I m afraid that at this my levity increased. " Oh, that s a
happiness almost too great to wish a person ! " I saw she had not
yet in her mind what I had in mine, and at any rate the visitor s
actual bliss was limited to a walk in the garden with Kent Mul-
ville. Later in the afternoon I also took one, and I saw nothing
of Miss Anvoy till dinner, at which we were without the company
of Saltram, who had caused it to be reported that he was out of
sorts and lying down. This made us, most of us for there were
other friends present convey to each other in silence some of the
unutterable things which in those years our eyes had inevitably
acquired the art of expressing. If an American inquirer had not
been there we would have expressed them otherwise, and Adelaide
would have pretended not to hear. I had seen her, before the
very fact, abstract herself nobly ; and I knew that more than once,
to keep it from the servants, managing, dissimulating cleverly, she
had helped her husband to carry him bodily to his room. Just
recently he had been so wise and so deep and so high that I had
begun to be nervous to wonder if by chance there were some
thing behind it, if he were kept straight, for instance, by the know
ledge that the hated Pudneys would have more to tell us if they
chose. He was lying low, but unfortunately it was common
knowledge with us that the biggest splashes took place in the
quietest pools. We should have had a merry life indeed if all the
splashes had sprinkled us as refreshingly as the waters we were
even then to feel about our ears. Kent Mulville had been up to
his room, but had come back with a facial inscrutability that I had
seen him achieve in equal measure only on the evening I waited in
the lecture-room with Miss Anvoy. I said to myself that our
friend had gone out, but I was glad that the presence of a com
parative stranger deprived us of the dreary duty of suggesting to
each other, in respect of his errand, edifying possibilities in which
By Henry James 339
we didn t ourselves believe. At ten o clock he came into the
drawing-room with his waistcoat much awry but his eyes sending
out great signals. It was precisely with his entrance that I ceased
to be vividly conscious of him. I saw that the crystal, as I had
called it, had begun to swing, and I had need of my immediate
attention for Miss Anvoy.
Even when I was told afterwards that he had, as we might have
said to-day, broken the record, the manner in which that attention
had been rewarded relieved me of a sense of loss. I had of course
a perfect general consciousness that something great was
going on : it was a little like having been etherised to hear Herr
Joachim play. The old music was in the air ; I felt the strong
pulse of thought, the sink and swell, the flight, the poise, the plunge;
but I knew something about one of the listeners that nobody else
knew, and Saltram s monologue could reach me only through that
medium. To this hour I m of no use when, as a witness, I m
appealed to (for they still absurdly contend about it), as to whether
or no on that historic night he was drunk ; and my position is
slightly ridiculous, for I have never cared to tell them what it
really was I was taken up with. What I got out of it is the only
morsel of the total experience that is quite my own. The others
were shared, but this is incommunicable. I feel that now, I m
bound to say, in even thus roughly evoking the occasion, and it
takes something from my pride of clearness. However, I shall
perhaps be as clear as is absolutely necessary if I remark that she
was too much given up to her own intensity of observation to be
sensible of mine. It was plainly not the question of her marriage
that had brought her back. I greatly enjoyed this discovery and
was sure that had that question alone been involved she would
have remained away. In this case doubtless Gravener would, in
spite of the House of Commons, have found means to rejoin her.
34 The Coxon Fund
It afterwards made me uncomfortable for her that, alone in the
lodging Mrs. Mulville had put before me as dreary, she should
have in any degree the air of waiting for her fate ; so that I was
presently relieved at hearing of her having gone to stay at Cold-
field. If she was in England at all while the engagement stood
the only proper place for her was under Lady Maddock s wing.
Now that she was unfortunate and relatively poor, perhaps her
prospective sister-in-law would be wholly won over. There
would be much to say, if I had space, about the way her behaviour,
as I caught gleams of it, ministered to the image that had taken
birth in my mind, to my private amusement, as I listened to
George Gravener in the railway carriage. I watched her in the
light of this queer possibility a formidable thing certainly to
meet and I was aware that it coloured, extravagantly perhaps,
my interpretation of her very looks and tones. At Wimbledon
for instance it had seemed to me that she was literally afraid of
Saltram, in dread of a coercion that she had begun already to feel.
I had come up to town with her the next day and had been con
vinced that, though deeply interested, she was immensely on her
guard. She would show as little as possible before she should be
ready to show everything. What this final exhibition might be
on the part of a girl perceptibly so able to think things out I
found it great sport to conjecture. It would have been exciting
to be approached by her, appealed to by her for advice ; but I
prayed to heaven I mightn t find myself in such a predicament.
If there was really a present rigour in the situation of which
Gravener had sketched for me the elements she would have to get
out of her difficulty by herself. It was not I who had launched
her and it was not I who could help her. I didn t fail to ask
myself why, since I couldn t help her, I should think so much
about her. It was in part my suspense that was responsible for
By Henry James 341
this : I waited impatiently to see whether she wouldn t have told
Mrs. Mulville a portion at least of what I had learned from
Gravener. But I saw Mrs. Mulville was still reduced to wonder
what she had come out again for if she hadn t come as a concilia
tory bride. That she had come in some other character was the
only thing that fitted all the appearances. Having for family
reasons to spend some time that spring in the west of England, I
was in a manner out of earshot of the great oceanic rumble (I
mean of the continuous hum of Saltram s thought), and my
nervousness tended to keep me quiet. There was something I
wanted so little to have to say that my prudence surmounted my
curiosity. I only wondered if Ruth Anvoy talked over the idea
of the Coxon Fund with Lady Maddock, and also somewhat why
I didn t hear from Wimbledon. I had a reproachful note about
something or other from Mrs. Saltram, but it contained no
mention of Lady Coxon s niece, on whom her eyes had been
much less fixed since the recent untoward events.
Adelaide s silence was fully explained later ; it was practically
explained when in June, returning to London, liwas honoured by
this admirable woman with an early visit. As soon as she
appeared I guessed everything, and as soon as she told me that
darling Ruth had been in her house nearly a month I
exclaimed : " What in the name of maidenly modesty is she
staying in England for ? "
" Because she loves me so ! " cried Adelaide gaily. But she
had not come to see me only to tell me Miss Anvoy loved her :
342 The Coxon Fund
that was now sufficiently established, and what was much more to
the point was that Mr. Gravener had now raised an objection to
it. That is he had protested against her being at Wimbledon,
where in the innocence of his heart he had originally brought
her himself; in short he wanted her to put an end to their
engagement in the only proper, the only happy manner.
" And why in the world doesn t she do so ? " I inquired.
Adelaide hesitated. " She says you know." Then on my also
hesitating she added : " A condition he makes."
" The Coxon Fund ? " I cried.
" He has mentioned to her his having told you about it."
" Ah, but so little ! Do you mean she has accepted the
trust ! "
" In the most splendid spirit as a duty about which there can
be no two opinions." Then said Adelaide after an instant : " Of
course she s thinking of Mr. Saltram."
I gave a quick cry at this, which, in its violence, made my
visitor turn pale. " How very awful ! "
"Why, to have anything to do with such an idea oneself."
" I m sure you needn t ! " Mrs. Mulville gave a slight toss of
" He isn t good enough ! " I went on ; to which she responded
with an ejaculation almost as lively as mine had been. This made
me, with genuine, immediate horror, exclaim : " You haven t
influenced her, I hope !" and my emphasis brought back the
blood with a rush to poor Adelaide s face. She declared while she
blushed (for I had frightened her again), that she had never in
fluenced anybody and that the girl had only seen and heard and
judged for herself. He had influenced her, if I would, as he did
everyone who had a soul : that word, as we knew, even expressed
By Henry James 343
feebly the power of the things he said to haunt the mind. How
could she, Adelaide, help it if Miss Anvoy s mind was haunted ?
I demanded with a groan what right a pretty girl engaged to a
rising M.P. had to have a mind ; but the only explanation my
bewildered friend could give me was that she was so clever. She
regarded Mr. Saltram naturally as a tremendous force for good.
She was intelligent enough to understand him and generous
enough to admire.
" She s many things enough, but is she, among them, rich
enough?" I demanded. "Rich enough, I mean, to sacrifice
such a lot of good money ? "
" That s for herself to judge. Besides, it s not her own money ;
she doesn t in the least consider it so."
"And Gravener does, if not his own : and that s the whole
difficulty ? "
" The difficulty that brought her back, yes : she had absolutely
to see her poor aunt s solicitor. It s clear that by Lady Coxon s
will she may have the money, but it s still clearer to her conscience
that the original condition, definite, intensely implied on her
uncle s part, is attached to the use of it. She can only take one
view of it. It s for the Endowment or it s for nothing."
" The Endowment is a conception superficially sublime but
"Are you repeating Mr. Gravener s words ? " Adelaide asked.
" Possibly, though I ve not seen him for months. It s simply
the way it strikes me too. It s an old wife s tale. Gravener
made some reference to the legal aspect, but such an absurdly loose
arrangement has no legal aspect."
"Ruth doesn t insist on that," said Mrs. Mulville ; "and it s,
for her, exactly this weakness that constitutes the force of the
344 The Coxon Fund
" Are you repeating her words ?" I inquired. I forgot what
else Adelaide said, but she said she was magnificent. I thought of
George Gravener confronted with such magnificence as that, and
I asked what could have made two such people ever suppose they
understood each other. Mrs. Mulville assured me the girl loved
him as such a woman could love and that she suffered as such a
woman could suffer. Nevertheless she wanted to see me. At
this I sprang up with a groan. " Oh, I m so sorry ! when ? "
Small though her sense of humour, I think Adelaide laughed at
my tone. We discussed the day, the nearest, it would be con
venient I should come out ; but before she went I asked my visitor
how long she had been acquainted with these prodigies.
" For several weeks, but I was pledged to secrecy."
"And that s why you didn t write ? "
" 1 couldn t very well tell you she was with me without telling
you that no time had even yet been fixed for her marriage. And
I couldn t very well tell you as much as that without telling you
what I knew of the reason 01 it. It was not till a day or two
ago," Mrs. Mulville went on, " that she asked me to ask you if
you wouldn t come and see her. Then at last she said that you
knew about the idea of the Endowment."
I considered a little. " Why on earth does she want to see
me ? "
" To talk with you, naturally, about Mr. Saltram."
" As a subject for the prize ?" This was hugely obvious, and
I presently exclaimed: "I think I ll sail to-morrow for
" Well then sail ! " said Mrs. Mulville, getting up.
"On Thursday at five, we said?" I frivolously continued.
The appointment was made definite and I inquired how, all this
time, the unconscious candidate had carried himself.
By Henry James 345
" In perfection, really, by the happiest of chances : he has been a
dear. And then, as to what we revere him for, in the most
wonderful form. His very highest pure celestial light. You
won t do him an ill turn ? " Adelaide pleaded at the door.
What danger can equal for him the danger to which he is ex
posed from himself? " I asked. " Look out sharp, if he has lately
been reasonable. He will presently treat us to some exhibition that
will make an Endowment a scandal."
" A scandal ? " Mrs. Mulville dolorously echoed.
" Is Miss Anvoy prepared for that ? "
My visitor, for a moment, screwed her parasol into my carpet.
" He grows larger every day."
" So do you ! " I laughed as she went off.
That girl at Wimbledon, on the Thursday afternoon, more than
justified my apprehensions. I recognised fully now the cause of
the agitation she had produced in me from the first the faint fore
knowledge that there was something very stiff I should have to do
for her. I felt more than ever committed to my fate as, standing
before her in the big drawing-room where they had tactfully left
us to ourselves, I tried with a smile to string together the pearls
of lucidity which, from her chair, she successively tossed me. Pale
and bright, in her monotonous mourning, she was an image of
intelligent purpose, of the passion of duty ; but I asked myself
whether any girl had ever had so charming an instinct as that
which permitted her to laugh out, as if in the joy of her difficulty,
into the blasle old room. This remarkable young woman could
be earnest without being solemn, and at moments when I ought
doubtless to have cursed her obstinacy I found myself watching the
unstudied play of her eyebrows or the recurrence of a singularly
intense whiteness produced by the parting of her lips. These
aberrations, I hasten to add, didn t prevent my learning soon
346 The Coxon Fund
enough why she had wished to see me. Her reason for this was
as distinct as her beauty : it was to make me explain what I had
meant, on the occasion of our first meeting, by Mr. Saltram s want
of dignity. It wasn t that she couldn t imagine, but she desired
it there from my lips. What she really desired of course was
to know whether there was worse about him than what she had
found out for herself. She hadn t been a month in the house with
him, that way, without discovering that he wasn t a man of starch
and whalebone. He was like a jelly without a mould, he had to
be embanked ; and that was precisely the source of her interest
in him and the ground of her project. She put her project boldly
before me: there it stood in its preposterous beauty. She was as
willing to take the humorous view of it as I could be : the only
difference was that for her the humorous view of a thing was not
necessarily prohibitive, was not paralysing.
Moreover she professed that she couldn t discuss with me the
primary question the moral obligation : that was in her own
breast. There were things she couldn t go into injunctions,
impressions she had received. They were a part of the
closest intimacy of her intercourse with her aunt, they were abso
lutely clear to her ; and on questions of delicacy, the interpretation
of a fidelity, of a promise, one had always in the last resort to
make up one s mind for oneself. It was the idea of the applica
tion to the particular case, such a splendid one at last, that troubled
her, and she admitted that it stirred very deep things. She didn t
pretend that such a responsibility was a simple matter ; if it had
been she wouldn t have attempted to saddle me with any portion
of it. The Mulvilles were sympathy itself ; but were they abso
lutely candid ? Could they indeed be, in their position would it
even have been to be desired ? Yes, she had sent for me to ask
no less than that of me whether there was anything dreadful
By Henry James 347
kept back. She made no allusion whatever to George Gravener
I thought her silence the only good taste and her gaiety perhaps
a part of the very anxiety of that discretion, the effect of a deter
mination that people shouldn t know from herself that her relations
with the man she was to marry were strained. All the weight,
however, that she left me to throw was a sufficient implication of
the weight that he had thrown in vain. Oh, she knew the
question of character was immense, and that one couldn t entertain
any plan for making merit comfortable without running the
gauntlet of that terrible procession of interrogation-points which,
like a young ladies school out for a walk, hooked their uniform
noses at the tail of governess Conduct. But were we absolutely to
hold that their was never, never, never an exception, never, never,
never an occasion for liberal acceptance, for clever charity, for
suspended pedantry for letting one side, in short, outbalance
another? When Miss Anvoy threw off this inquiry I could have
embraced her for so delightfully emphasising her unlikeness to
Mrs. Saltram. " Why not have the courage of one s forgiveness,"
she asked, "as well as the enthusiasm of one s adhesion ? "
"Seeing how wonderfully you have threshed the whole thing
out," I evasively replied, "gives me an extraordinary notion of the
point your enthusiasm has reached."
She considered this remark an instant with her eye on mine, and
I divined that it struck her I might possibly intend it as a reference
to some personal subjection to our fat philosopher, to some fanciful
transfigurement, some perversion of taste. At least I couldn t in
terpret otherwise the sudden flush that came into her face. Such
a manifestation, as the result of any word of mine, embarrassed
me ; but while I was thinking how to reassure her the colour I
speak of passed away in a smile of exquisite good nature. " Oh,
you see, one forgets so wonderfully how one dislikes him ! " she
The Yellow Book Vol. II. u said ;
348 The Coxon Fund
said ; and if her tone simply extinguished his strange figure with
the brush of its compassion, it also rings in my ear to-day as the
purest of all our praises. But with what quick response of com
passion such a relegation of the man himself made me privately
sigh : " Ah, poor Saltram ! " She instantly, with this, took the
measure of all I didn t believe, and it enabled her to go on :
" What can one do when a person has given such a lift to one s
interest in life ?"
" Yes, what can one do ? " If I struck her as a little vague it
was because I was thinking of another person. I indulged in
another inarticulate murmur " Poor George Gravener ! " What
had become of the lift he had given that interest ? Later on I
made up my mind that she was sore and stricken at the appearance
he presented of wanting the miserable money. It was the hidden
reason of her alienation. The probable sincerity, in spite of the
illiberality, of his scruples about the particular use of it under dis
cussion didn t efface the ugliness of his demand that they should
buy a good house with it. Then, as for his alienation, he didn t,
pardonably enough, grasp the lift Frank Saltram had given her
interest in life. If a mere spectator could ask that last question,
with what rage in his heart the man himself might ! He was
not, like her, I was to see, too proud to show me why he was
I was unable, this time, to stay to dinner : such, at any rate,
was the plea on which I took leave. I desired in truth to get
away from my young lady, for that obviously helped me not to
pretend to satisfy her. How could I satisfy her ? I asked myself
By Henry James 349
how could I tell her how much had been kept back ? I didn t
even know, myself, and I certainly didn t desire to know. My
own policy had ever been to learn the least about poor Saltram s
weaknesses not to learn the most. A great deal that I had in
fact learned had been forced upon me by his wife. There was
something even irritating in Miss Anvoy s crude conscientious
ness, and I wondered why after all she couldn t have let him alone
and been content to entrust George Gravener with the purchase
of the good house. I was sure he would have driven a bargain,
got something excellent and cheap. I laughed louder even than
she, I temporised, I failed her ; I told her I must think over her
case. I professed a horror of responsibilities and twitted her with
her own extravagant passion for them. It was not really that I
was afraid of the scandal, the moral discredit for the Fund ;
what troubled me most was a feeling of a different order. Of
course, as the beneficiary of the Fund was to enjoy a simple life-
interest, as it was hoped that new beneficiaries would arise and
come up to new standards, it would not be a trifle that the first of
these worthies should not have been a striking example of the
domestic virtues. The Fund would start badly, as it were, and the
laurel would, in some respects at least, scarcely be greener from
the brows of the original wearer. That idea however was at
that hour, as I have hinted, not the source of anxiety it ought
perhaps to have been, for I felt less the irregularity of Saltram s
getting the money than that of this exalted young woman s
giving it up. I wanted her to have it for herself, and I told her
so before J went away. She looked graver at this than she had
looked at all, saying she hoped such a preference wouldn t make
It made me, to begin with, very restless made me, instead of
going straight to the station, fidget a little about that many-
35 The Coxon Fund
coloured Common which gives Wimbledon horizons. There
was a worry for me to work off, or rather keep at a distance, for I
declined even to admit to myself that I had, in Miss Anvoy s
phrase, been saddled with it. What could have been clearer
indeed than the attitude of recognising perfectly what a world of
trouble the Coxon Fund would in future save us, and of yet
liking better to face a continuance of that trouble than see, and in
fact contribute to, a deviation from attainable bliss in the life of
two other persons in whom I was deeply interested ? Suddenly,
at the end of twenty minutes, there was projected across this clear
ness the image of a massive, middle-aged man seated on a bench,
under a tree, with sad, far-wandering eyes and plump white hands
folded on the head of a stick a stick I recognised, a stout gold-
headed staff ithat I had given him in throbbing days. I stopped
short as he turned his face to me, and it happened that for some
reason or other I took in as I had perhaps never done before the
beauty of his rich blank gaze. It was charged with experience as
the sky is charged with light, and I felt on the instant as if we
had been overspanned and conjoined by the great arch of a bridge
or the great dome of a temple. Doubtless I was rendered pecu
liarly sensitive to it by something in the way I had been giving
him up and sinking him. While 1 met it I stood there smitten,
and I felt myself responding to it with a sort of guilty grimace.
This brought back his attention in a smile which expressed for me
a cheerful, weary patience, a bruised noble gentleness. I had told
Miss Anvoy that he had no dignity, but what did he seem to me,
all unbuttoned and fatigued as he waited for me to come up, if he
didn t seem unconcerned with small things, didn t seem in short
majestic ? There was majesty in his mere unconsciousness of our
little conferences and puzzlements over his maintenance and his
By Henry James 351
After I had sat by him a few minutes I passed my arm over
his big soft shoulder (wherever you touched him you found
equally little firmness,) and said in a tone of which the
suppliance fell oddly on my own ear : " Come back to town
with me, old friend come back and spend the evening." I
wanted to hold him, I wanted to keep him, and at Waterloo, an
hour later, I telegraphed possessively to the Mulvilles. When he
objected, as regards staying all night, that he had no things, I
asked him if he hadn t everything of mine. I had abstained from
ordering dinner, and it was too late for preliminaries at a club ; so
we were reduced to tea and fried fish at my rooms reduced also
to the transcendent. Something had come up which made me
want him to feel at peace with me, which was all the dear man
himself wanted on any occasion. I had too often had to press
upon him considerations irrelevant, but it gives me pleasure now to
think that on that particular evening I didn t even mention Mrs.
Saltram and the children. Late into the night we smoked and
talked ; old shames and old rigours fell away from us ; I only let
him see that I was conscious of what I owed him. He was as
mild as contrition and as abundant as faith ; he was never so fine
as on a shy return, and even better at forgiving than at being
forgiven. I daresay it was a smaller matter than that famous
night at Wimbledon, the night of the problematical sobriety and
of Miss Anvoy s initiation ; but I was as much in it on this
occasion as I had been out of it then. At about 1.30 he was
He never, under any circumstances, rose till all other risings
were over, and his breakfasts, at Wimbledon, had always been the
principal reason mentioned by departing cooks. The coast was
therefore clear for me to receive her when, early the next morn
ing, to my surprise, it was announced to me that his wife had
352 The Coxon Fund
called. I hesitated, after she had come up, about telling her
Saltram was in the house, but she herself settled the question, kept
me reticent, by drawing forth a sealed letter which, looking at me
very hard in the eyes, she placed, with a pregnant absence of com
ment, in my hand. For a single moment there glimmered before
me the fond hope that Mrs. Saltram had tendered me, as it were,
her resignation and desired to embody the act in an unsparing
form. To bring this about I would have feigned any humilia
tion ; but after my eyes had caught the superscription I heard my
self say with a flatness that betrayed a sense of something very
different from relief: "Oh, the Pudneys ? " I knew their enve.
lopes, though they didn t know mine. They always used the kind
sold at post-offices with the stamp affixed, and as this letter had
not been posted they had wasted a penny on me. I had seen their
horrid missives to the Mulvilles, but had not been in direct corre
spondence with them.
"They enclosed it to me, to be delivered. They doubtless
explain to you that they hadn t your address."
I turned the thing over without opening it. " Why in the
world should they write to me ? "
"Because they have something to tell you. The worst,"
Mrs. Saltram dryly added.
It was another chapter, I felt, of the history of their lamentable
quarrel with her husband, the episode in which, vindictively,
disingenuously as they themselves had behaved, one had to admit
that he had put himself more grossly in the wrong than at any
moment of his life. He had begun by insulting the matchless
Mulvilles for these more specious protectors, and then, according
to his wont at the end of a few months, had dug a still deeper
ditch for his aberration than the chasm left yawning behind. The
chasm at Wimbledon was now blessedly closed; but the Pudneys
By Henry James 353
across their persistent gulf, kept up the nastiest fire. I never
doubted they had a strong case, and I had been from the first for
not defending him reasoning that if they were not contradicted
they would perhaps subside. This was above all what I wanted,
and I so far prevailed, that I did arrest the correspondence in time
to save our little circle an infliction heavier than it perhaps would
have borne. I knew, that is I divined, that they had produced as
yet as much as they dared, conscious as they were in their
own virtue of an exposed place in which Saltram could have
planted a blow. It was a question with them whether a man who
had himself so much to cover up would dare ; so that these vessels
of rancour were in a manner afraid of each other. I judged that
on the day the Pudneys should cease for some reason or other to
be afraid they would treat us to some revelation more disconcert
ing than any of its predecessors. As I held Mr. Saltram s letter
in my hand it was distinctly communicated to me that the day
had come they had ceased to be afraid. "I don t want to know
the worst," I presently declared.
" You ll have to open the letter. It also contains an enclo
I felt it it was fat and uncanny. " Wheels within wheels ! "
I exclaimed. " There is something for me too to deliver."
" So they tell me to Miss Anvoy."
I stared ; I felt a certain thrill. " Why don t they send it to
her directly ? "
Mrs. Saltram hesitated ! " Because she s staying with Mr. and
"And why should that prevent ? "
Again my visitor faltered, and I began to reflect on the
grotesque, the unconscious perversity of her action. I was the only
person save George Gravener and the Mulvilles who was aware of
354 The Coxon Fund
Sir Gregory Coxon s and of Miss Anvoy s strange bounty. Where
could there have been a more signal illustration of the clumsiness
of human affairs than her having complacently selected this moment
to fly in the face of it ? " There s the chance of their seeing her
letters. They know Mr. Pudney s hand."
Still I didn t understand ; then it flashed upon me. " You
mean they might intercept it ? How can you imply anything so
base ? " I indignantly demanded.
"It s not I; it s Mr. Pudney ! " cried Mrs. Saltram with a
flush. " It s his own idea."
"Then why couldn t he send the letter to you to be de
livered ? "
Mrs. Saltram s colour deepened ; she gave me another hard
look. " You must make that out for yourself."
I made it out quickly enough. " It s a denunciation ? "
"A real lady doesn t betray her husband !" this virtuous woman
I burst out laughing, and I fear my laugh may have had an
effect of impertinence.
"Especially to Miss Anvoy, who s so easily shocked ? Why
do such things concern her ? " I asked, much at a loss.
"Because she s there, exposed to all his craft. Mr. and Mrs.
Pudney have been watching this ; they feel she may be taken in."
"Thank you for all the rest of us ! What difference can it
make, when she has lost her power to contribute ? "
Again Mrs. Saltram considered ; then very nobly : " There are
other things in the world than money," she remarked. This
hadn t occurred to her so long as the young lady had any ; but
she now added, with a glance at my letter, that Mr. and Mrs.
Pudney doubtless explained their motives. " It s all in kindness,"
she continued as she got up.
By Henry James 355
" Kindness to Miss Anvoy ? You took, on the whole, another
view of kindness before her reverses."
My companion smiled with some acidity. " Perhaps you re no
safer than the Mulvilles ! "
I didn t want her to think that, nor that she should report to
the Pudneys that they had not been happy in their agent ; and I
well remember that this was the moment at which I began, with
considerable emotion, to promise myself to enjoin upon Miss
Anvoy never to open any letter that should come to her with a
stamp worked into the envelope. My emotion and I fear I must
add my confusion quickly increased ; I presently should have
been as glad to frighten Mrs. Saltram as to think I might by
some diplomacy restore the Pudneys to a quieter vigilance.
" It s best you should take my view of my safety," I at any rate
soon responded. When I saw she didn t know what I meant by
this I added : " You may turn out to have done, in bringing me
this letter, a thing you will profoundly regret." My tone had a
significance which, I could see, did make her uneasy, and there
was a moment, after I had made two or three more remarks of
studiously bewildering effect, at which her eyes followed so
hungrily the little flourish of the letter with which I emphasised
them, that I instinctively slipped Mr. Pudney s communication
into my pocket. She looked, in her embarrassed annoyance, as if
she might grab it and send it back to him. I felt, after she had
gone, as if I had almost given her my word I wouldn t deliver the
enclosure. The passionate movement, at any rate, with which,
in solitude, I transferred the whole thing, unopened, from my
pocket to a drawer which I double-locked would have amounted,
for an initiated observer, to some such promise.
356 The Coxon Fund
Mrs. Saltram left me drawing my breath more quickly and
indeed almost in pain as if I had just perilously grazed the loss
of something precious. I didn t quite know what it was it had
a shocking resemblance to my honour. The emotion was the
livelier doubtless in that my pulses were still shaken with the
great rejoicing with which, the night before, I had rallied to the
most potent inspirer it could ever have been a man s fortune to
meet. What had dropped from me like a cumbersome garment
as Saltram appeared before me in the afternoon on the heath was
the disposition to haggle over his value. Hang it, one had to
choose, one had to put that value somewhere ; so I would put it
really high and have done with it. Mrs. Mulville drove in for
him at a discreet hour the earliest she could presume him to
have got up ; and I learned that Miss Anvoy would also have
come had she not been expecting a visit from Mr. Gravener. I
was perfectly mindful that I was under bonds to see this young
lady, and also that I had a letter to deliver to her ; but I took my
time, I waited from day to day. I left Mrs. Saltram to deal as
her apprehensions should prompt with the Pudneys. I knew at
last what I meant I had ceased to wince at my responsibility.
I gave this supreme impression of Saltram time to fade if it
would ; but it didn t fade, and, individually, it has not faded even
now. During the month that I thus invited myself to stiffen
again Adelaide Mulville, perplexed by my absence, wrote to me
to ask why I was so stiff. At that season of the year I was
usually oftener with them. She also wrote that she feared a real
estrangement had set in between Mr. Gravener and her sweet
By Henry James 357
young friend a state of things only partly satisfactory to her so
long as the advantage accruing to Mr. Saltram failed to disengage
itself from the cold mists of theory. She intimated that her sweet
young friend was, if anything, a trifle too reserved ; she also
intimated that there might now be an opening for another clever
young man. There never was the slightest opening, I may here
parenthesise, and of course the question can t come up to-day.
These are old frustrations now. Ruth Anvoy has not married, I
hear, and neither have I. During the month, toward the end, I
wrote to George Gravener to ask if, on a special errand, I might
come to see him, and his answer was to knock the very next day
at my door. I saw he had immediately connected my inquiry
with the talk we had had in the railway carriage, and his prompti
tude showed that the ashes of his eagerness were not yet cold. I
told him there was something I thought I ought in candour to let
him know I recognised the obligation his friendly confidence
had laid upon me.
" You mean that Miss Anvoy has talked to you ? She has told
me so herself," he said.
" It was not to tell so that / wanted to see you," I replied ;
"for it seemed to me that such a communication would rest
wholly with herself. If however she did speak to you of our
conversation she probably told you that I was discouraging."
" Discouraging ?"
" On the subject of a present application of the Coxon Fund."
" To the case of Mr. Saltram ? My dear fellow, I don t know
what you call discouraging ! " Gravener exclaimed.
" Well, I thought I was, and I thought she thought I was."
" I believe she did, but such a thing is measured by the effect.
She s not discouraged."
" That s her own affair. The reason I asked you to see me
358 The .Coxon Fund
was that it appeared to me I ought to tell you frankly that
decidedly I can t undertake to produce that effect. In fact I
don t want to ! "
"It s very good of you, damn you !" my visitor laughed, red
and really grave. Then he said : " You would like to see that
fellow publicly glorified perched on the pedestal of a great com
plimentary fortune ? "
"Taking one form of public recognition with another, it seems
to me on the whole I could bear it. When I see the compli
ments that are paid right and left, I ask myself why this one
shouldn t take its course. This therefore is what you re entitled
to have looked to me to mention to you. I have some evidence
that perhaps would be really dissuasive, but I propose to invite
Miss Anvoy to remain in ignorance of it."
" And to invite me to do the same ? "
" Oh, you don t require it you ve evidence enough. I speak
of a sealed letter which I ve been requested to deliver to her."
" And you don t mean to ? "
" There s only one consideration that would make me."
Gravener s clear, handsome eyes plunged into mine a minute ;
but evidently without fishing up a clue to this motive a failure
by which I was almost wounded. "What does the letter con
tain ? "
" It s sealed, as I tell you, and I don t know what it contains."
" Why is it sent through you ? "
" Rather than you ? " I hesitated a moment. " The only ex
planation I can think of is that the person sending it may have
imagined your relations with Miss Anvoy to be at an end may
have been told they were by Mrs. Saltram."
" My relations with Miss Anvoy are not at an end," poor
By Henry James 359
Again, for an instant, I deliberated. "The offer I propose to
make you gives me the right to put you a question remarkably
direct. Are you still engaged to Miss Anvoy ? "
" No, I m not," he slowly brought out. " But we re perfectly
" Such good friends that you will again become prospective
husband and wife if the obstacle in your path be removed ? "
" Removed ? " Gravener vaguely repeated.
" If I give Miss Anvoy the letter I speak of she may drop her
" Then for God s sake give it ! "
"I ll do so if you re ready to assure me that her dropping it
would now presumably bring about your marriage."
" I d marry her the next day ! " my visitor cried.
" Yes, but would she marry you ? What I ask of you of
course is nothing less than your word of honour as to your con
viction of this. If you give it me," I said, "I ll place the letter
in her hand to-day."
Gravener took up his hat ; turning it mechanically round, he
stood looking a moment hard at its unruffled perfection. Then,
very angrily, honestly and gallantly : " Place it in hell ! " he
broke out ; with which he clapped the hat on his head and left me.
" Will you read it or not ? " I said to Ruth Anvoy, at Wimble
don, when I had told her the story of Mrs. Saltram s visit.
She reflected for a period which was probably of the briefest,
but which was long enough to make me nervous. " Have you
brought it with you ? :
" No indeed. It s at home, locked up."
There was another great silence, and then she said : " Go back
and destroy it."
I went back, but I didn t destroy it till after Saltram s death,
360 The Coxon Fund
when I burnt it unread. The Pudneys approached her again
pressingly, but, prompt as they were, the Coxon Fund had already
become an operative benefit and a general amaze ; Mr. Saltram,
while we gathered about, as it were, to watch the manna descend,
was already drawing the magnificent income. He drew it as he
had always drawn everything, with a grand abstracted gesture.
Its magnificence, alas, as all the world now knows, quite quenched
him ; it was the beginning of his decline. It was also naturally
a new grievance for his wife, who began to believe in him as soon
as he was blighted and who to this day accuses us of having bribed
him to gratify the fad of a pushing American, to renounce his
glorious office, to become, as she says, like everybody else. On
the day he found himself able to publish he wholly ceased to produce.
This deprived us, as may easily be imagined, of much of our
occupation, and especially deprived the Mulvilles, whose want of
self-support I never measured till they lost their great inmate.
They have no one to live on now. Adelaide s most frequent
reference to their destitution is embodied in the remark that dear
far-away Ruth s intentions were doubtless good. She and Kent
are even yet looking for another prop, but every one is so dread
fully robust. With Saltram the type was scattered, the grander,
the elder style. They have got their carriage back, but what s an
empty carriage ? In short, I think we were all happier as well as
poorer before ; even including George Gravener, who, by the
deaths of his brother and his nephew, has lately become Lord
Maddock. His wife, whose fortune clears the property, is
criminally dull ; he hates being in the Upper House and he has
not yet had high office. But what are these accidents, which I
should perhaps apologise for mentioning, in the light of the great
eventual boon promised the patient by the rate at which the Coxon
Fund must be rolling up ?
For the Backs of Playing Cards
By Aymer Vallance
of Content. By Frederic!;
Louis. By Ella D Arcy
oser of "Carmen." By
a Week. By Joha David-
lility. By Henry Harland
y Dollie Radford
Charlotte M. Mew
psisse. By Austin Dobson
es. By V., O., C. S.
:ry. By Katharine de
Book, criticised. By Philip
r Ronald Campbell 1VI :cfie
ene. By Deuplun Meunier
i Road. By Kenneth
By Normssa Gale
i Desire. By Nctta Syretl
n LiterosJure, By Hubecl
By Alfred Hayes
the Editor. j5y Max
By William Wa;-jon
Fund, By Henry James
The Renaissance of Venus. By Walter
II. The Lamplighter. By A. S. Hartrick
IX. A Landscape. By Alfred Thorntoffl ^
By Aubrey Beardsiey
Three Pictures. By P. Wilson Steer
Portrait of Henry James. By John S.
A Gir! Resting. By Sydney Adamson
XVI. |. Three Pictures, By Walter Sickert
XVIH. An Idyll. By W. Brown MacDougal
Two Drawings. By E. J. Sullivan
A Reminiscence of "The Transgressor."
By Frai.cis Forster
XXII. A Study. By Bcrnhard Sickert
XX UL For the Backs of Playing Cds.
By Ayiner Vallance